Derbyshire Dales council responds to criticism over decision to mow wildflower meadow – after Chris Packham takes the power to rebuke

TV presenter and conservationist Chris Packham took to task in front of an audience of half a million Twitter followers, when before and after pictures of the pitch next to the Arc Leisure Center were shared by Peak District environmental magazine Little Green Space.

The hill had been allowed to grow wild as part of the national No Mow May campaign to tackle biodiversity loss – and Packham criticized the decision to mow it down at the end of the month-long initiative .

He said: “It’s infuriating. When will we learn? Who is responsible and why did this happen? There is a biodiversity crisis and we are all sick of excuses for this kind of vandalism.

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Before being mowed, the land had come alive with a carpet of buttercups, red clover and other pollinator-friendly plants.

According to Little Green Space, the day before the land was mowed, at least eight species of wildflowers, bumblebees and swifts had been seen in the area, and many on Twitter also expressed horror at what had been lost.

But the council insists the decision to raze the land must be seen in the context of wider biodiversity policies leaving edges and public spaces to nature across the district all summer.

A spokesperson said: ‘When national activist groups with a huge following on social media decide to take you down, you’re really hiding from nothing, but we think the local people will understand what we’ve tried to do with this plot of land.

“The only reason wildflowers bloomed there this spring is because we made the decision to delay mowing the area to participate in #NoMowMay, which allowed pollinators to thrive on the site. usually not a wildflower meadow.As was always the plan, we mowed part of the area in early June, but left other parts uncut to ensure continuity of pollinators.

They added: ‘We know that local people use this space as a picnic area, particularly during the pandemic, which is why we have cut off the central space – but we have committed to monitoring its use this summer. to guide us on the possibility of extending #NoMowMay into next year. We will consult the local community on this.

“Over the past two years, Derbyshire Dales District Council has embarked on an innovative biodiversity program that has won national acclaim. It is therefore disappointing that activists seek to tarnish the reputation of this council. But we remain passionate about biodiversity.

The council’s biodiversity program included 15 pilot sites in 2021, with specialist officers working alongside parish councils and community groups to prepare the land and plant seeds over the winter.

This resulted in more than 55 different flowering plants, ranging from common dandelions and buttercups to four species of orchids, and was hailed as a great achievement by many observers.

Following recommendations from councillors, officers and local residents, the number of protected sites has risen to 34 this year – and that number is set to increase in 2023.

Chris B. Hall