Many Town, Parish and District Councils around the country are turning to a concept called rewilding, letting some green and grassy areas return to a more natural state. The aim for many of these Councils is to increase the amount of biodiversity and wildlife locally.
As a District Council, South Hams currently manages about 50 hectares of green space which is cut every couple of weeks.
Today, the Council are launching a consultation to explore what the public thinks about the Council enabling rewilding on a small proportion of this land. (10Ha for a biodiversity led approach, and 3.5Ha for wildflower meadows).
In 2019 South Hams District Council declared a Climate Change and Biodiversity Emergency.
Across the UK, many habitats which are important for supporting wildlife have already been lost. For example, 97% of wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1930s, with a knock on impact on the species which rely on these habitats.
The abundance of habitat specialist butterflies has declined by 68% since 1976 for example.
As part of their declaration and to mitigate against such biodiversity loss, South Hams has said it aims to increase biodiversity on Council owned-land by at least 10% by 2025.
Creating and restoring more biodiverse green spaces and enabling rewilding of some Council owned land, could help the Council reach its biodiversity targets and significantly improve conditions for local wildlife.
This consultation is proposing an approach which could see the Council proactively manage 10Ha land as wilder green space, 3.5Ha of land as wildflower areas, and 3.5Ha of new tree planting. This could support pollinators, as well as wildlife such as reptiles, small mammals, amphibians, birds and even bats.
Cllr Tom Holway, South Hams District Council’s Executive Member for Climate Change, said: “In 2019 we made a very important declaration, namely we declared a climate change and biodiversity emergency. This means that we made a commitment to proactively do things that could halt the progress of climate change and biodiversity loss.
“This idea of rewilding is a great way for Councils to make a big difference locally. In reality, South Hams actually owns a small proportion of the green spaces in the District, only around 50 hectares and we are proposing to do this on about 1/3 of that.
“However, I am excited about the difference this could make, and it would be wonderful to get local communities engaged in this process and for them to see these habitats change and grow over the coming year.
“This consultation is all about understanding what the public thinks about this idea and if they would be supportive of it in general terms.”
The Council recognises that some members of our community may be concerned about uncut grasses looking untidy or neglected.
However, the proposals suggest that the areas selected for rewilding would still be carefully managed, often with cut grass framing the area, paths cut through longer grass and clear signposting to show everyone which grassed areas are part of the scheme.
If the consultation returns a favourable response to the concept of rewilding some Council owned land in South Hams, a proposals map will be available in the autumn , and in some cases there may be more site level consultation over the specific detail of proposals to ensure the approach fits with the aspirations of local residents.
Through this experience and the consultation, South Hams would also be able to support and offer advice to Town and Parish Councils who are also considering allocating space to rewilding.
For more information on the proposal and to have your say visit:
Or to read more about South Hams District Council’s Climate Change Declaration, visit: