Huge public backing for councils to reduce grass-cutting to help save our bees

06 Apr 2017
Nearly two thirds (63%) of public say councils should be doing more to help protect our bees
  • Reducing grass-cutting saves money for cash-strapped councils
  • Nearly two thirds (63%) of public say councils should be doing more to help protect our bees
  • Buglife and Friends of the Earth launch council guide to help pollinators at Bee Summit today (6 April)

Over 80 per cent (81%) of the public back calls for councils to help Britain’s under-threat bees by cutting areas of grass less often in parks and roadside verges to allow wild flowers to grow, a new YouGov poll for Friends of the Earth and Buglife reveals today.

The move would also be good news for cash-strapped local authorities, with councils already saving thousands of pounds every year by reducing grass-cutting.

The Friends of the Earth and Buglife YouGov survey also revealed:

  • almost two thirds of the population (63%) agree that local councils should be doing more to protect Britain’s bees
  • 88% support councils reducing the use of bee-harming pesticides
  • 92% support local authorities in planting more wildflowers and other bee friendly plants in their local parks and community spaces

Buglife and Friends of the Earth are urging councils to play their part in boosting the nation’s bee populations with a new guide for local authorities on the measures they can take to help pollinators.

‘Helping Pollinators Locally – Developing a Local Pollinator Action Plan’ written by Friends of the Earth and Buglife is published today at a Bee Summit in central London. The summit is organised by Friends of the Earth and the Women’s Institute.

Local councils urged to act on pollinators

Reducing grass cutting is a good way for cash-strapped councils to save money too. Burnley Borough Council, which is speaking at the Bee Summit, estimates that savings from meadow management (including reducing grass-cutting to benefit wildlife) are £58,000 p.a - and are expected to increase.  Dorset County Council also estimates that significant savings have been made from wildlife-friendly policies, such as allowing grass to grow.

Despite all the publicity about bee decline only a handful of councils – including Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, East Sussex and Bristol – have introduced comprehensive pollinator action plans.  Since 1900, the UK has lost 20 species of bee, and a further 35 are considered under threat of extinction. None are protected by law. Across Europe nearly one in ten wild bee species face extinction.

Helping Pollinators Locally – Developing a Local Pollinator Action Plan’ spells out some of the policies councils could undertake, including:

  • Use the planning system to protect and increase pollinator-friendly habitat.
  • Manage council-owned or council-managed land to benefit bees and other pollinators, including: cutting some areas of grass less often in parks and roadside verges to allow wild flowers to grow; reducing the use of bee-harming pesticides; planting more wildflowers and other bee friendly plants in local parks and community spaces.
  • Encouraging others to act. Local authorities can work with and encourage schools, businesses, local communities and individuals to help develop the flower-rich environments which our native pollinators need. They can raise awareness of the work that is being done and why it matters.  Bringing people and nature closer together benefits health and wellbeing.

Friends of the Earth chief executive Craig Bennett said:

“Local councils have a vital part to play in helping the UK’s under-threat bee populations.

“Policies, such as allowing grass to grow on roadside verges and in certain areas in parks, will help bees, save cash-strapped councils money and are supported by the public too.

“We hope many more councils will stand up for our bees and nature and introduce comprehensive pollinator action plans in the months ahead.”

Dr Paul Evans, Lead Pollinator Advisor at Buglife said:

“We are not advocating abandoning areas of council land but introducing a new less intensive form of grassland management. Effectively cutting grass less in the right places will not only help to counter pollinator decline it will benefit wildlife and people too. The message is a win, win, win for councils save money, help nature, enrich people’s lives.”

Simon Goff Head of Green Spaces & Amenities at Burnley Council, and who is speaking at today’s Bee Summit said:

“People visit parks to enjoy contact with nature and so we are adopting a more ecological approach to managing them, with large areas of previously mown grass now managed as meadows. This saves money, reduces CO2 emissions, increases biodiversity and creates more attractive and interesting parks.”

“The Council is facing huge cuts and so we are rethinking how we manage our greenspaces. We are focussing on what is important to park users such as removing litter, maintaining play areas and tackling dog fouling and we are saving money in other areas such as introducing more meadow areas and replacing expensive bedding scheme with herbaceous perennials.”

Peter Moore, Environment Service Director at Dorset County Council, which has introduced a pollinator action plan that includes less grass-cutting, and who is speaking at the Bee Summit said

“Dorset County Council adopted a new strategy for managing highway verges in 2014.  We have a more targeted approach to the cutting we do, and we have introduced wildlife-friendly techniques. We estimate this has saved us £100,000 over the last two years, with a further £50,000 in savings anticipated in 2017-18. A significant amount of this saving is due to reducing the frequency of cutting, showing that pollinator-friendly approaches can save money too.”

Marylyn Haines Evans, Public Affairs Chair of the NFWI commented:
 
“WI members have worked tirelessly to highlight the plight of honeybees by creating bee havens in back gardens, parks and on disused land. We know habitat loss is a key factor behind the decline of honeybees and other pollinators, so it is really positive to see local authorities take up the challenge to support pollinators in their own local communities.
 
“It is vital that we all play our part to support our precious honeybees, and we hope the guide will prompt more local authorities to work together with their local community to help pollinators thrive.”

*** The Great British Bee Count – organised by Friends of the Earth, supported by Buglife and sponsored by Waitrose - is taking place 19 May and 30 June.  People can register for the fun, free and easy-to-use app at: www.greatbritishbeecount.co.uk ***

ENDS

For more information contact Neil Verlander, Friends of the Earth on 0207 566 1674/ 07712 843 209 or contact the Friends of the Earth press office on 020 7566 1649 or 07718 394786 (out of hours – please do not text), [email protected] or Paul Hetherington, Buglife:  01733 201210 (ext 107)/ 07732 158128

Notes to editors:

  1. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1,643 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 28th - 29th March 2017.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
  2. 63 per cent agreed that local councils should be doing more to protect Britain’s bees. 11% felt “everything that can be reasonably expected to be done in relation to protecting Britain’s bees is currently being done”. 26% said they didn’t know.
  3. The survey asked: “There are different ways of creating or improving the habitat for bees and other wildlife. To what extent would you support or oppose local councils doing each of the following?”
  • 81% supported (46% ‘strongly’; 35% ‘tend to support’) “Cutting some areas of grass less often in parks and roadside verges to allow wild flowers to grow”. Nine per cent were opposed.
  • 88% supported (61% ‘strongly’; 27% ‘tend to support’) “Reducing the use of bee-harming pesticides.” Three per cent were opposed.
  • 92% supported (66% ‘strongly’; 26% ‘tend to support’) “Planting more wildflowers and other plants in local parks and community spaces.” 1 per cent were opposed.
  1. Helping Pollinators Locally – Developing a Local Pollinator Action Plan, published by Buglife and Friends of the Earth.
  2. Thursday’s Bee Summit, organised by Friends of the Earth and the Women’s Institute brings together key stakeholders to review science of bee decline and the role of farming; review progress on the various national pollinator strategies, celebrate achievements, and identify problem areas, and the importance of local authority strategies for pollinators for effective delivery; and highlight examples of best practice local action for pollinators. It will also look at the importance of information, to promote and enable effective action by stakeholders and concerned citizens. 
  3. Allowing grass to grow has real benefits for bees and other wildlife. A government information sheet on helping pollinators – hosted on the Wildlife Trust website says: “Sympathetic management of grassland areas can improve its value for pollinators and can be applied to grassland in a wide range of settings including: road verges, recreation grounds, parks, office and school grounds and churchyards. Changes in management need to be sympathetic to the particular circumstances and how the area is used by the public, but small changes can make a difference.”
  4. See ‘urban Environment’
  5. Earlier this year it was reported that Conservative councillors on Isle of Wight council estimated that reducing verge cutting will save it £11,000 a year.

If you're a journalist looking for press information please contact the Friends of the Earth media team on 020 7566 1649.