A verbal update on consultations and progress on the re-wilding pilot scheme since the last meeting of the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee
The Cabinet Member referred to the Committee’s ambition to increase rewilding and biodiversity within the District. He commented on the suggestions from the previous Committee meeting that were incorporated into the report. The Committee had been provided with information about the consultation undertaken with ward members. Areas under consideration for rewilding together with the results of consultation with ward members were outlined.
The Cabinet Member provided the Committee with a presentation of the Rewilding Pilot Scheme. He noted the key stakeholders were, Town/Parish Councils, SKDC Ward Councillors, local interest groups and residents.
Areas considered for rewilding were parts of the recreation ground in Bourne, the Foxglove play area in Stamford, areas in Queen Elizabeth Park, Wyndham and Dysart parks in Grantham and Tattershall Drive in Market Deeping.
Members were reminded of the types of rewilding being considered and potential benefits.
Rewilding: Allowing nature to take back control, tall grasses and other plant species naturalise are permitted which encourages wildlife, insects, birds and mammals.
Tiered land management: A method of providing multiple levels or tiers with differing levels of rewilding habits within the same area.
Members were also provided with overview of the potential costs and savings for each proposed site.
Reference was made to how the success of the rewilding projects would require the support of both local Members and the local community.
A Member questioned why, when examining the sites, the Jubilee Park site in Deeping St James had not been selected when it had been suggested as a possible site at the previous meeting. The Cabinet Member replied that he was unaware what criteria had been used to determine which site would be chosen but remembered that it was commented on at the time that there were two sites in the Deepings.
That the criteria used for determining which site was to be chosen would be distributed to Members of the Committee together with an explanation of why Tattershall Drive was picked instead of Jubilee Park.
A Member queried the work undertaken by Environment SK in the Frognall area and referred to a verge containing wildflowers that was maintained by the community but had recently been cut. The Cabinet Member replied that Environment SK was a commercial company and they would be expected to complete work they had been contracted to do. It was suggested that the question would need to be directed to the organisation that raised the work order. It was commented that this was likely to be the parish council.
The Cabinet Member was also questioned about litter picking and cutting down of wildflowers on a roundabout in the Deepings area. The Cabinet Member replied that as far as he was aware South Kesteven had not been informed on the lane closures by Lincolnshire County Council’s highways department. Discussion also took place around planting licences that could be applied for verges in order to allow wildflowers to grow or flowers to be planted.
Members thanked officers for their work in bringing forward the proposals to the Committee. One Member commented that time had been lost during the period prior to Covid-19 lockdown that could have been used to start growing wildflowers. The Cabinet Member noted there had been less time than imagined due to Council resources being used for emergency planning prior to restrictions and lockdown. Members also queried the lack of feedback from local towns and parish councils and were informed that the only feedback received was from Stamford Town Council.
A Member asked why hedge planting had not been included in the update as it had been suggested at a previous meeting. He also queried whether it would be possible for grass cutting to be set at a slightly higher level which would provide a better habitat for wildlife. The Cabinet Member replied that hedge plantings were not part of the rewilding proposals. The Strategic Director for Commercial and Operations advised that the action note from the previous meeting recorded that hedges would be added to the work plan for the Committee, noting that officers would prepare a report when hedges were included on an agenda for a future meeting.
That a report on hedges would be included on a future agenda.
Discussion took place on the difficulty of managing grass and the conflicting concerns of allowing grass to grow long in order to preserve biodiversity and provide a habitat to wildlife against the desire for residents to have shorter grass for their neatness. A Member spoke of their belief that a compromise between these factors could be found with experimentation but understood the difficulties in managing this. Another Member commented on the Highways policy of allowing residents to adopt verges and roundabouts. She queried whether there was a cost in applying for permission. The Cabinet Member spoke of the Council’s decision during lockdown to make parks and gardens as accessible to as many as possible so residents in lockdown could enjoy them.
Further discussion ensued on the proposals on Recreation Road in Bourne and it was noted that sporting events and charity events made it an unsuitable location for wildflower planting. Members were fully in support of rewilding in the area but felt a search for an alternative site should be conducted. A Member raised the possibility of examining North Field as an alternative site.
That North field (Bourne) be considered and assessed as an alternative site for rewilding and that consultation with ward members would be undertaken.
Cllr Dilks left 12:17
A Member raised concerns about an apparent lack of consultation in respect of Jubilee park and queried whether the proposal had been rejected before any consultation had been completed.
Following a full and frank discussion on the recommendations in the report, together with additional suggestions from Members, the Committee recommended:
a) That the Tattershall Drive proposal proceeds
b) That the Recreation Road proposal should not be progressed
c) That the Foxglove Road proposal proceeds as an updated proposal