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Grassland Management Strategy supporting our ecology

10 March 2022 : Council news, Community, Environment

Somerset West and Taunton Council has a new Grassland Management Strategy to ensure that mowing routines support the climate and our ecology.

The strategy has been developed by the Somerset Wildlife Trust in consultation with the Council’s Open Spaces Team to identify appropriate areas to support nature recovery while ensuring good access for residents in well-used areas.

The strategy is accompanied by a decision tree which identifies opportunities for changing mowing routines to support wildlife depending on whether open spaces are in high use, moderate use, or infrequent use.

It will allow the team who know and maintain sites across the district to decide which management theme is the most appropriate.

Cllr Andy Sully, Executive Member for Environmental Services, said: “Our new strategy is designed to ensure that council-owned land is managed with both people and nature in mind.

“Areas that are regularly used by residents and visitors, such as our flagship parks, play areas, or open spaces close to houses, will always be mowed frequently with access as a priority with their main purpose as spaces for residents to enjoy.

“However, in areas that are less well used the strategy and decision tree will help us to choose the most suitable mowing programme in line with our climate commitments.”

The Council declared a climate emergency in 2019 and an ecological emergency in 2020. Its Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience Action Plan highlights the role that open space management can play in meeting climate and ecology challenges.

It has been trialling various changes in how open spaces are managed to improve biodiversity, including sowing wildflowers and leaving some areas of grass to grow longer than normal.

Cllr Dixie Darch, Executive Member for Climate, said: “Engaging with the Somerset Wildlife Trust on this Grassland Management Strategy will allow us to improve biodiversity in our parks and open spaces.

“The benefits of long grass in protecting wildlife habitats, providing shelter for invertebrates to breed, improving biodiversity, and supporting pollinator species are well documented.

“I am delighted that we have been able to integrate climate and ecological considerations into our strategy in line with our commitment to put climate and environmental responsibility at the heart of everything we do.”

The Council will begin working towards implementation of the strategy for the new cutting season. It is designed to be flexible, so if certain areas are not suited to being cut in the new way, they can be returned to their original cutting style.

Simon Clarke, Head of Nature Recovery at Somerset Wildlife Trust, said: “We are really pleased to have been able to work with SWT on their new Grassland Management Strategy.

“This shows a strong commitment from the Council and will demonstrate how relatively small changes in the way that we approach land management can have a big impact in terms of adapting to climate change.

“Reducing the intensity of that management will allow opportunities for a wide range of nature to thrive. We look forward to seeing the strategy being implemented over the next few years.”