29th May 2020
Dear Cabinet Members
Management of Council Land – grass mowing and glyphosate use
For at least the last 7 years, attempts have been made to engage with Cardiff Council about reducing both grass mowing and the use of glyphosate (herbicide). Whilst there has been some progress – most notably when Cllr. Bob Derbyshire was a Cabinet member – overall, the much needed large scale change has failed to materialise. Indeed, since the time when Cllr. Derbyshire was a Cabinet member, progress has completely stalled.
As you will know, Cardiff Council, as a public body, has a legal duty to protect biodiversity (nature) under the Environment (Wales) Act 2016, s.6(1) –
A public authority must seek to maintain and enhance biodiversity in the exercise of functions in relation to Wales, and in so doing promote the resilience of ecosystems, so far as consistent with the proper exercise of those functions.
Statutory guidance on public bodies’ legal duties under this Act has also been published.
The “biodiversity duty” is also part of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, s.4, A resilient Wales –
A nation which maintains and enhances a biodiverse natural environment with healthy functioning ecosystems that support social, economic and ecological resilience and the capacity to adapt to change (for example climate change).
The reasons why biodiversity is so important are set out in IPBES Report for the UN.
Clearly, as a body which manages a substantial amount of land, Cardiff Council is in a strong position to make positive changes to enhance biodiversity. Unfortunately, every year, land including parks and road verges is mowed repeatedly and glyphosate (a herbicide) is used liberally around the city – on pavements, in parks and around the bases of trees. (And there are also concerns (e.g. World Health Organisation) that glyphosate may be carcinogenic.) A further problem is that every year land which the Council has agreed not to mow is mown. This has happened several times at Hailey Park and also on land near Cardiff Bay Nature Reserve, where a colony of bee orchids was destroyed at the height of the flowering season.
For the avoidance of doubt, we are not advocating that there should be no mowing – far from it. Sports pitches and some road junctions are just two examples where regular mowing is essential. And mowing – at the right time of year – is crucial as it allows plants to set seed and thus flower again the following year. But there is ample evidence that a great deal of the mowing that the Council undertakes is unnecessary. Not only is this environmentally damaging, it is a waste of precious public money.
There have been many positive comments this year about the amount of flowers in evidence around Cardiff, because of the lack of mowing. So it was very disappointing to see Cardiff Council’s Press Release about the resumption of mowing which, incredibly, made no mention at all of the positive aspects of the lack of mowing. Thus a really good opportunity to promote the benefits of reduced mowing to the wider public was wasted.
We think that the Council’s approach to mowing and herbicide use has to change.
We would like to see –
- the Council publicly state that it is committed to improving its environmental practice with regard to grass mowing and the use of herbicide, along with an explanation for the public about why this is so important
- the Council work with interested parties – organisations, groups and individuals – to produce, on an incremental basis “mowing maps”, so it is clear where mowing should take place and when. The maps should be published on the Council’s website as they are produced
- the Council review its mowing machinery to ensure that it has the right equipment for “cut and lift” mowing where this is required
- the Council to review and amend its mowing bio-hazard procedures, to reduce the spread of Japanese Knotweed across the city
- the Council to produce a plan to phase out the use of glyphosate and other herbicides, except for very particular issues (e.g. Japanese Knotweed)
- the Council to produce an action plan covering the above points and setting clear targets, with regular progress reports being presented to the Environmental Scrutiny Committee
We would be pleased to work with the Council to achieve the above and we look forward to hearing from you.
Cardiff Civic Society
Gareth Beynon, Elis Bowen, Bute Parks Alliance
Cardiff Bat Group, Cardiff Friends of the Earth, Cardiff Naturalists’ Society, Cardiff Extinction Rebellion
Friends of Hailey Park
Glamorgan Bird Club, Christine Glossop, Green Squirrel CIC
Katherine Jones, Margaret Jones
Chris Meechan, Elen Miles, Les Mills, Diana Morgan, Rachael Morley
Roath Brook Campaign
Angela Thomas, Laura Thomas
Michael Webb, Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales, Ceri Williams, Jane Williams
Mark Drakeford, MS
Vaughan Gething, MS
Julie Morgan, MS
Jenny Rathbone, MS
Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner
Adrian Crompton, Auditor General for Wales