10 things the county council could do to make a greener Devon

PUBLISHED: 14:44 05 August 2019 | UPDATED: 14:45 05 August 2019

Tenant farmers will be asked to phase out some pesticides and fertilisers under the action plan. Picture: Getty Images

Tenant farmers will be asked to phase out some pesticides and fertilisers under the action plan. Picture: Getty Images

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Reducing the use of bee-harming pesticides and planting more wildflowers and trees are among measures that could be adopted by Devon County Council.

Reducing the use of bee-harming pesticides and planting more wildflowers and trees are among measures that could be adopted by Devon County Council.

A 10-point action plan will be passed to the council's internal environmental performance board, which advises on green issues.

The plan includes proposals to phase out the use of glyphosate pesticides in council activities such as weed spraying, and the use of inorganic fertilisers by the council's tenant farmers.

It also proposes that the tenant farmers should set aside 10 per cent of their land for wildlife and/or wildflowers for pollinators, and five per cent of it for tree planting.

The action plan was discussed at the full council meeting on Thursday, July 25, after being submitted by Independent councillor Claire Wright at an earlier meeting of the council's cabinet.

The council agreed to refer it on to the environmental performance board, an internal body of county council officers which makes recommendations to improve the council's performance relating to the environment.

Councillors also endorsed the principle of further action to address environmental issues, in line with global concerns.

But Conservative councillors voted down Cllr Wright's request that the council should write to the new environment secretary, Theresa Villiers, 'underlining the importance of tackling climate breakdown and the associated crisis in nature, water and soil, including Devon County Council's own response to it'.

Speaking at the meeting on July 25, Cllr Wright said she was pleased that the council has invested £250,000 to start tackling climate change, and had set up the environmental performance board.

But she added: "Insect populations are crashing. Around 40 per cent of insect species are in decline and could die out in the coming decades and the Environment Agency chief executive has warned that water could run short within 25 years and that use needs to be cut by a third.

"The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services report tells us that it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now - at every level from local to global. We have no choice if we want to protect the planet for future generations."

Cllr Wright will be speaking at the Environment Performance Board's next meeting on Thursday, August 8.

The 10-point plan as submitted by Cllr Wright is:

- Call on the government to offer all pollinators full legal protection from harm

- Write to all Devon outlets stocking bee-harming pesticides, and urge them to permanently cancel their order with the suppliers

- Take action to phase out all glyphosate pesticides used in council weed spraying or any other council-related activity, by December 2019 (there may be exceptional circumstances such as dealing with specific non-native species, such as Japanese knotweed)

- Support Devon County Council tenant farmers in phasing out the use of inorganic fertilisers (such as nitrogen) by December 2023

- Support Devon County Council tenant farmers in setting aside 10 per cent of their land for wildlife and/or wildflower mixes for pollinators

- Work with community groups and non-government organisations such as Devon Wildlife Trust and the Woodland Trust to support Devon County Council tenant farmers to set aside five per cent of their land for tree planting

- Work with community groups and non-government organisations such as Devon Wildlife Trust and the Woodland Trust on supporting town and parish councils, schools and community groups to set aside land for tree planting

- Develop a policy on soil health good practice, with an emphasis on allowing land to recover and phasing out damaging chemicals, which are ultimately sterilising the land. This would include setting appropriate and reasonable targets for Devon County Council tenant farmers

- Work with South West Water on a campaign to save water across the county, with an emphasis on education about future water scarcity. Specifically target town and parish councils, community groups and schools to raise awareness of the importance of good water practice

- Support Devon Wildlife Trust's campaign by calling on the Environment Secretary to allocate a further eight Marine Conservation Zones to Devon's waters.

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