Public may not be happy with rewilding plan, warns council member

PUBLISHED: 12:00 17 November 2019

The council is hoping to convert 16 per cent of its sites into tall grass areas and a further 10 per cent into woodland.

The council is hoping to convert 16 per cent of its sites into tall grass areas and a further 10 per cent into woodland.

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People may not accept North Somerset Council's rewilding plan and could take matters into their own hands.

That concern was raised at as the council pushes ahead with plans to see nature given greater freedom.

A quarter of the public parkland in North Somerset will be allowed to go wild in a bid to tackle climate change and boost biodiversity.

The plans include planting 50,000 trees to create 20 hectares of woodland, letting grass grow taller and planting wild meadows.

Community and environment service manager John Flannigan told councillors on November 5: "We're trying to rewild the district as much as possible.

"We haven't done this before. This is our first attempt. We're asking people to comment so we know what they want.

"The council has 2.5million square metres of verges, parks and open spaces. That's a lot of fuel, a lot of effort.

"In biodiversity terms it's a bit of a desert.

"The team has come up with 25 per cent to be rewilded - on 15 per cent the grass will grow longer and on 10 per cent there will be new trees. That number may change.

"We think volunteers are a key part. A lot of people want to plant trees and be involved.

"We also need to be cerebral and make sure biodiversity is increasing."

The 50,000 trees are expected to cost a pound each and will help 40,000 ash trees at risk of disease.

Long Ashton could see the biggest change - half of its "amenity grass" will be left to grow tall or be planted with trees.

Cllr Terry Porter said: "A lot of places are doing this. It's amazing to see.

"The biggest issue will be people saying the council isn't doing its job.

"That's why the Blue Heart campaign came about, to say it's for environmental reasons."

Cllr Porter is a South West in Bloom judge and praised volunteers in Portishead for rewilding the St Georges Flower Bank, where they have recorded 400 plant species and 400 different mammals, butterflies and insects.

Cllr John Cato said not all residents are so accepting and some had already taken matters into their own hands in some areas and cut down long grass in a backlash against rewilding.

He said: "There are going to be challenges in some areas."

Environmental services manager Dee Mawn said: "We get quite a lot of complaints about overgrown gardens - how are we going to make sure the message gets across that rewilding is acceptable? Where is the line?"

She said some are concerned about vermin in long grass, even if there is no evidence.

The council will soon consult on the proposals.

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