“Concerning and disappointing” – Cardiff council continue to mow flowers and use poisonous weed killer

Management of Council Land – grass mowing and glyphosate use

Text of Cardiff Civic Society to Peter Bradbury, the Cabinet Member for Parks, Cardiff Council

Thank you for your response to our letter about grass mowing and glyphosate use (attached below)

We are pleased that you have agreed to increase areas where the land will be managed for the benefit of wild flowers. However, this is a modest – very modest – improvement. We would welcome confirmation that these areas, as well as existing “no mow” areas (e.g. patch on Llandaff Fields), will be cut at the right time of year and the grass cuttings removed (“cut and lift” management).

Overall, though, we found your response to be both concerning and disappointing.

Much of your response is simply irrelevant to the issues we raised. We did not mention the climate crisis; the management of SSSIs; the number of volunteers in your Friends groups; or trees. 

There are also a number of misrepresentations, false assumptions and inaccuracies in your response – e.g. that less mowing could increase the Council’s carbon footprint. You have not provided any evidence for this statement. 

Your response displays a lack of understanding about the relationship between the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis: whilst these are linked, they are separate issues. Even without climate change, there would still be a decline in biodiversity, because of loss of habitat.

Your response did not address your future plans for increasing the land area managed for biodiversity. We suggest that the Council develop a plan for this, which provides details of locations, targets, timescales and who is responsible for implementation. By doing this, improvement can be monitored and the Council can be held to account. We notice that your BRED Plan includes the development of a Pollinator Action Plan. This was first discussed at a meeting of the Cardiff Biodiversity Partnership in September 2013 and it seems that, nearly seven years later, there is still no pollinator plan. This lack of action is woeful. 

The grass-cutting issue was also raised at a Cardiff Biodiversity Partnership meeting in 2013. So, despite this; the Environment (Wales) Act 2016; the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015; and the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 s. 6 statutory guidance (see note below), it would seem that Cardiff Council has made very little progress on this important issue. 

Furthermore, there have been real problems over the years in preserving the small improvements that have been made.  For example, the Council attempted in 2016 to plough up part of Pontcanna Meadow, spray it with glyphosate and plant it with “pictorial meadow” seeds (which isn’t managing grassland for biodiversity). It also proposed using the Meadow for a VIP car park when the European Football competition was held in Cardiff in 2017. Fortunately, local people managed to get both these proposals stopped. Hailey Park has also been cut twice this year, even though the Council agreed to leave mowing until the end of summer.

It is also important to recognise that managing grassland for biodiversity is not just about pollinators, important as they are. Well managed grassland provides habitat for a wide range of small mammals, birds and reptiles. So, a plan for improving land management for biodiversity, as suggested above, is vital. 

We note your comments about glyphosate use and are disappointed that the Council does not seem to be committed to reducing its use very considerably or phasing it out altogether. You will be aware that the Future Generations Commissioner has, in her recent Report, called for Wales to ban the use of pesticides. Other Welsh Councils seem to be taking more robust action on this issue – e.g. the Vale of Glamorgan Council has stopped using glyphosate in its parks, which is a good first step. Cardiff Council needs to follow suit.

In your letter you state – Central to the Biodiversity and Resilience of Ecosystems Duty Forward Plan is an Implementation Programme which details projects that the Council is involved in to promote biodiversity and ecosystem resilience

Unfortunately, the BRED Plan is not “SMART” –  it contains no timescales nor identification of who is responsible for actions. There is no specific mention of reduced mowing and glyphosate use. These may be part of “development of Council wide pollinator action plan” but this really isn’t clear.

We welcome the Environmental Scrutiny Committee’s Managing Biodiversity and Natural Environment in Cardiff Report and we look forward to the Cabinet approving it in its entirety. We suggest though, that after the Report’s adoption, the BRED Plan is re-written, so that it provides clarity on what the Council is intending to do and by when.

Once again, we are copying in the Office of the Future Generations Commissioner and the Wales Audit Office, for their information.

Yours sincerely,

Cardiff Civic Society

cc. Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner

Adrian Crompton, Auditor General for Wales

NOTE: 

The s.6 statutory guidance includes the following as examples of how public bodies can comply with their legal duties – 

Look for opportunities, whether they are big or small, to help encourage biodiversity – e.g. plant native species, wildflower areas for pollinators, leaving areas of unmown grass; and improving connectivity between valuable habitats

Support the creation of new habitats, such as local orchards, native hedges, wildflower meadows or other areas of wildlife-friendly green space that is accessible to local communities

Manage the land over which you have control to be wildlife friendly, and involve staff in the planning and management of this

If you have responsibility for road verge management, manage these in a way which contributes to road safety and wildlife conservation

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