Pollinators are in steep decline. Small actions by local authorities, such as leaving grassed areas to grow in Spring and Summer can help bees, butterflies, moths and other pollinating insects.
Stopping the use of harmful herbicides, which are known to harm both human health and wildlife – such as glyphosate – can also contribute to better fortunes for our declining wildlife and make cities greener and healthier.
Newcastle Green Spaces Initiative has been actively campaigning against the use of glyphosate on public land in Newcastle and recently joined forces with Pesticide Action Network UK to form Pesticide Free Newcastle, which we have actively supported. NGSI has been involved in the creation of several wildflower areas across the city and we have worked closely with them to create three wildflower plots in Hazlerigg, as well as working with Hazlerigg Community Centre to plant trees that benefit bees and other pollinators, as well as a small community orchard.
Initiatives in the west of the city, such as Greening Wingrove are actively connecting people with nature and supporting pollinators through the Wild West End project and Vertical Veg. With commitment from the Council and input from local residents, community groups and parish councils, this can be replicated in other parts of the city.
The Newcastle and North Tyneside Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) – a ten year vision for the protection and enhancement of biodiversity in Newcastle and North Tyneside – sets specific targets for wildlife habitats and species and is a material planning consideration. This means it must be taken into account when making decisions on development across the city. The BAP is currently being updated.
Existing targets for bees include developing projects with universities and schools, creating flagship bee gardens, retaining nesting and overwintering sites in private gardens and allotments, advising landowners on management of sites for bumblebees, carrying out survey work and delivering a workshop. While some of these targets are complete, others are ongoing or not yet complete.
Since the BAP was published, there has been increasing awareness around the plight of bees and other pollinating insects, with many conservation organisations, such as Buglife, Plantlife and Friends of the Earth encouraging local authorities to take positive action and produce comprehensive pollinator plans.
We have long been calling on Newcastle City Council to better manage land for biodiversity, create more wildflower areas and plant more trees and hedgerows. We are now calling on the Council to deliver a comprehensive pollinator strategy and are encouraging people to support our campaign by writing to their local councillors. We have included a list of points below, which can be personalised and sent via email. Local councillor contact details can be found here.
We have also compiled a short survey to obtain people’s views and opinions on mowing times and pollinators in Newcastle, which can be found here. We will use the results to support our campaign.
Points to include in your letter to your councillor
• A citywide commitment to adhere to Plantlife’s Good Verge Guide to ensure effective management of roadside verges for pollinators
• A citywide commitment to ensure all new development results in net gains for pollinators. This should involve securing financial contributions from developers for the creation and maintenance of wildflower areas, green walls and living roofs, particularly on city centre developments where large roof spaces could be utilised for the benefit of pollinators
• All grassed roundabouts in the city left to grow or planted with native wildflowers of local provenance, where possible
• All churchyards and cemeteries managed with biodiversity in mind. This should include a ban on pesticides, as well as appropriate mowing regimes to benefit pollinators
• Introduction of designated ‘wild’ areas in all parks across the city with appropriate signage. This will involve close collaboration with Urban Green Newcastle
• A ban on all pesticides on public land, unless absolutely necessary for the treatment of invasive species and only in the absence of another alternative
• Training for ground maintenance, estate management, highways staff and contractors to raise awareness of pollinator needs and management regimes
• Advice to residents, community groups and local businesses on the importance of managing land for pollinators. This could include mailings, events and awards and could be carried out in collaboration with local groups and residents
• A citywide review of amenity planting schemes. This should involve ensuring that bedding plants are not treated with neonicotinoid pesticides and that all species planted are beneficial for pollinators
• An awareness campaign to educate the public on how and why areas are being managed with biodiversity and pollinators in mind
• Annual bee surveys in collaboration with conservation groups, parish councils, community groups and local residents
• Areas litter picked before being cut and grass clippings removed after cuts. This could be carried out in conjunction with parish councils, local groups and residents, but will require cooperation and making information on timings of grass cutting publicly available
• Direct support and guidance to schools and businesses to encourage pollinator-friendly maintenance practices on their land
• Participation in national pollinator initiatives, including Urban Buzz or B-Lines
• A restriction on neonicotinoid pesticides and active promotion of pollinator-friendly farming practices with farmers across the city
• Publicly accessible information detailing specific Council-owned/managed wildflower areas across the city