Dear Cllr Pearce,
Thank you very much for your detailed and very prompt reply to my email concerning climate and biodiversity. I appreciate that it is “no easy task” to budget and set targets for such an area as this, particularly as you are working in tandem with other authorities. I do believe, however, that your position enables you to direct the Council to put in place new policies which will protect the biodiversity and environment of the South Hams. Your new procurement strategy which aims to reduce the Council’s footprint is to be welcomed and I assume you will be using your householders’ bulletin to inform all householders of this fact. This tool, as well as social media, could be used to great effect by you to suggest measures which residents could take to reduce their own carbon footprint.
Residents could also be encouraged to ‘wild’ small areas of their gardens – certain trees, like crab apples and particular plants like the wild rose and foxglove, as I am sure you know, are suitable for all but the smallest garden and are great for encouraging wildlife and improving biodiversity. There is also much valuable habitat in public spaces and the management of even small areas such as grass verges can really improve urban environments and provide wildlife habitats. Likewise, an encouraging message could also be sent to Parish Councils – small actions by them could bring huge benefits to villages in terms of the health and well-being of residents.
Councils and residents could also be encouraged to lessen light pollution by switching off exterior lights at night and choosing bulbs with lower light intensity. The closure of blinds and curtains at night can also be of benefit. The recent Landscape Review highlighted the huge damage that is being caused to our bat communities by light pollution. The South Hams have a very poor record in this regard and your Planning Officers could really help by asking developers to treat the reduction of light pollution as a priority. Planning Officers could also emphasize to developers the prevalence of tree disease in our district and a condition of planning could be the planting of species which will help regenerate and restore our habitats. The care and conservation of existing trees and woodland need to be prioritised by all, with large fines for abuse enforced.
I was impressed recently to see that Bristol City’s own housing company, Gorom Homes, has its first two projects in the pipeline. These will have 55% affordable provision and some of the buildings will be given green roofs and landscaped podium gardens. In addition, bat, bird and insect houses will be sited on communal green spaces – it would be really good public relations for SHDC to bring in such popular measures!
The Landscape Review highlighted the need for “a coming together of ambition for our natural environment and our farming communities.” It appears that the new ELMS schemes will encourage this, but in the meantime, it would be really helpful if your Council followed the example of Poole Harbour and encouraged farmers, particularly those on our estuaries and on the coast, “to reduce leaching while locking up nutrients that can be utilised by the subsequent crop.”
Finally, I would like to repeat my suggestion in my last email, that the South Hams Society is very willing to participate in a Citizens’ Assembly which would work towards improving the Biodiversity of the South Hams. Several members have been in touch with estates which are involved in rewilding projects such as Knepp in West Sussex, Lethytep in Cornwall, and the Devon Sculpture Park at Mamhead. By demonstrating ways of establishing a functioning ecosystem in a low-cost way, these estates set a marvellous example to us all – wouldn’t it be wonderful to start the process of Rewilding the South Hams!