Taking care of Warwickshire's wildlife - The Leamington Observer

Taking care of Warwickshire's wildlife

Leamington Editorial 28th Aug, 2021   0

WILDLIFE in Warwickshire is among the best cared for in Britain – but there’s more to be done.

A commitment to increasing the footprint of areas of wildlife and wildflower biodiversity in the county is one of the actions being taken by Warwickshire County Council (WCC), as a new poll by the Local Government Association (LGA) shows more than nine in ten residents nationally support increased biodiversity.

WCC’s award-winning ecology team is ensuring biodiversity offsetting, considerate development and eco-friendly behaviour are at the heart of what the local authority does as part of its commitment to tackling the Climate Change Emergency – and it is already reaping rewards.

WCC is one of only a few authorities in the UK to have made a written commitment to aim for a net gain in habitat biodiversity, which will be an important contribution to how the county mitigates and adapts to climate change.

Ninety-four per cent of residents polled by the LGA want to see increased biodiversity in their area, including the planting of trees and protection of green spaces.

But only one third of planning authorities in England having access to their own ‘in house’ ecologist.

WCC has a team of ecologists that work nationally with statutory bodies including Natural England and locally with regional local authority partners, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, ecological consultants, and amateur species experts, sharing their knowledge and expertise as they deliver joint projects across the county.

WCC’s Ecological Services team has been engaged in various areas of work to protect Warwickshire’s environment and help reach a carbon net zero position, with projects to encourage wildflower growth, plant trees and protect biodiversity in the county’s communities.

In conjunction with WCC’s Country Park Rangers, work has been done to increase biodiversity in Warwickshire’s five country parks. A successful Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) scheme, in partnership with Natural England, has transformed grassland areas to support greater floral diversity by creating gaps for wildflowers to re-establish, which increases diversity up the food chain as a result.

This has resulted in huge improvements in floral biodiversity, with 303 species of flowering plant recorded at Ryton Pools County Park, and WCC is now monitoring insect recovery in response to this activity.

In partnership with Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, there has been large-scale reedbed creation work at Kingsbury Water Park as part of the Tame Valley Wetlands project, and at Ryton Pools some 20,000 hedgerow trees have been planted to date as part of the Dunsmore Living Landscape Scheme.

A national pilot project that Warwickshire is partaking in is transforming a 17-acre meadow at Ryton Pools into a good quality, diverse hay meadow, of which the UK has lost 97 per cent (7.4 million acres) since the 1930s. Species-rich grassland now only covers just one per cent of the UK’s land area.

This autumn, the meadow will be seeded with a local provenance Warwickshire wildflower seed. It is hoped that a second meadow can be added later as part of the thirty-year Biodiversity Offsetting Scheme.

WCC is reaching out to other landowners to gather their support for the Offsetting Scheme by committing to biodiversity enhancements on their own land such as tree planting, wildflower meadow creation and wetland creation to compensate for losses that have occurred due to development work such as the building of new homes, roads, or schools.

Developers in Warwickshire are now required to provide compensation for biodiversity loss under planning policy. This approach and has been so successful that it will form the basis of a national model that will be enshrined in law and rolled out by DEFRA later in the year.

WCC environment spokeswoman Coun Heather Timms said: “As the LGA survey shows, most residents feel it is important for local authorities to undertake activities such as increasing biodiversity to tackle climate change.

“Warwickshire County Council, in partnership with district and boroughs, is committed to biodiversity offsetting and considerate development as we transform our places, and to empowering our communities and businesses to be eco-friendly as we aim for a net zero future.

“We have grasped the nettle early with this. It is testament to how well the county council has previously prepared that some of our work, already enshrined in our practice, is now being rolled out nationally as an exemplar of how local authorities should work with developers to mitigate any effects on the local habitat.

“Similarly, our ranger service has been proactive in increasing the diversity at our parks and wild areas. These actions, and similar projects, will be key to making sure that we meet our goal of a net gain in biodiversity while not ceasing the development that is necessary for our communities. It is a fine balance and one that Warwickshire has been tackling with great innovation and diligence.

Enhancing biodiversity and tackling climate change is not limited to planning authorities, developers, or landowners. Warwickshire schools, colleges and community groups can apply for a free tree-planting kit from the Woodland Trust or other grants such as Biffa Awards or the Urban Tree Challenge Fund, which will help to create a variety of new wooded areas and habitats for animals and help the UK to meet its 2050 carbon net-zero target.

Residents in the county who have a garden can are also being encouraged to play their part in increasing biodiversity by following some ecological advice:

* Avoid plastic grass at all costs! Insects can’t access the ground beneath, everything below it will die, and it contributes to heat retention and radiation from the ground. “Proper” grass and lawns contribute to urban cooling and rainwater capture as well as providing foraging grounds for birds.

* Plant native species wherever possible, especially in terms of hedges and trees.

Don’t mow the lawn as often, take part in “No-mow May” to allow wildflowers to flourish, providing nectar sources for insects.

* Plant nectar sources and foodplants for insects and seed-bearing plants and fruit bearing shrubs for birds.

* Don’t be too tidy, leave a wild area with self-sown wildflowers and nettles for wildlife.

For more information on Warwickshire’s innovative biodiversity offsetting scheme visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk/news/article/2099/landowners-sought-to-support-warwickshire-s-innovative-biodiversity-offsetting-scheme

To find out more about applying for a tree planting kit, visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk/news/article/1458/1-million-trees-in-the-ground-apply-for-a-tree-planting-pack-from-the-woodland-trust

For more information about how Warwickshire County Council is facing the challenges of the climate change emergency and how you can get involved visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk/theclimateemergency

Sign-up to the Climate Emergency Newsletter at eepurl.com/hrk-zf


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