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South Lakeland District Council steps up biodiversity commitment

Giles Archibald

South Lakeland District Council members have unanimously backed a commitment to step up work to protect biodiversity.

A motion put forward by the council’s Leader, Councillor Giles Archibald, on Tuesday night, said the authority would review how its activities could enhance biodiversity protection while at the same time continuing to deliver services efficiently to residents of the district.

It also called on the government to urgently take action to achieve the Aichi targets – conservation goals signed up to by 194 countries at the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity in Japan in 2010 – and urged local authorities in Cumbria to “jointly address the highly serious issue of the future deterioration in biodiversity.”

Councillor Archibald said: “This is a very serious and very important matter. Biodiversity covers many dimensions, not just the number of species in the world but issues like protecting eco-systems and genetic erosion of species.

“Biodiversity matters because it provides a lot of services we take for granted – it provides most of the clean water in the world and cleans the air, a lot of medicines are related to nature.

“We need to push this issue. We can help by planting trees and improving habitats and supporting individual projects. We don’t have all the answers but we need to put biodiversity at the centre of the council agenda.”

Councillor Dyan Jones, Portfolio Holder for Climate Emergency and Localism, said: “This is crucial. We realise we need to work with partners, whether that is local authorities, schools, communities, each other even, so this is a really worthwhile action. We can do something really positive by working together.”

The motion said: “This council notes the recent report from the UN intergovernmental panel on biodiversity and ecosystem services. The report outlines the deterioration in biodiversity globally and the serious consequences of a further decline in biodiversity. This council further notes the UK government’s failure to achieve agreed targets on biodiversity (the Aichi targets).”

The move follows SLDC’s declaration of a climate emergency in February.

The council is developing a biodiversity policy which will recognise the importance of plant and insect species with, ultimately, the council building upon work started in 2016 with our contractor to use different forms of management for open spaces and parks, to support and encourage biodiversity.

This will reduce the carbon emissions created by regular grass cuttings, from decomposition (both those collected and those left on-site) and emissions from the vehicles and machinery. This will also increase the diversity of plant species found in the green spaces, benefitting local wildlife and the wider environment to diversify local landscape value.

The council will take biodiversity into consideration in the development of projects. For example, the council-owned Braithwaite Fold Caravan Site at Bowness has recently been extended and the landscaping plans have included planting of a variety of wild flowers and plants to encourage new species to flourish.

Following the recent climate conversations around the district, the council will put together a list of actions on climate change and biodiversity loss. These include both actions SLDC will act upon and those that it will encourage others to take. We will also further set up our communication to residents about these issues.

An example of the council’s concern, the latest Development Management Policies DPD (Development Plan Document) adopted by the council in March includes requirement for developers to  ensure the protection and enhancement of existing ecological networks, and biodiversity and geological assets, securing adequate measures to avoid and mitigate for any potential impacts and building in net gains for biodiversity as an integral part of development.

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