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Action plan for pollinators

Dorset County Council has adopted an action plan for protecting pollinating insects such as bees and butterflies.

Why we need to protect bees and butterflies in Dorset

In June 2016, Dorset County Council's Cabinet approved a set of principles for minimising the harm we do to pollinators and enhancing their natural habitats.

Pollinators are species of insects including bees, hoverflies, butterflies and moths. They are essential for helping plants and crops to grow. Their value to the UK economy has been estimated at more than £400m a year.This is particularly important in Dorset, with its large farming sector and abundance of diverse and wildlife-rich landscapes.

However, pollinators are in decline. Threats to their survival include habitat loss and degradation, pests and diseases, climate change and the use of pesticides. These include neonicotinoids, the most widely used insecticides in the world, which have been linked to the decline of pollinators.

Our action plan sets out a range of principles that we follow for all relevant projects, plans and decisions, both now and in the future.

These cover highway verges and hedgerows, our county farms estate and country parks and include stopping the use of on neonicotinoids and planting more pollinator-friendly plants.

Our commitment to a healthy environment

All public bodies have a legal duty to have regard to the conservation of biodiversity in exercising their functions. The county council's Corporate Plan reinforces this by committing to delivering a 'healthy environment'.

We already actively protect pollinating insects. This includes the seeding of wild flowers along road verges, appropriate landscaping of highways and other land, verge cutting, protecting or creating new habitats linked to development and maintaining our country parks and rights of way in ways that are sympathetic to pollinators.

However, given the pressures faced by pollinators and the growing evidence they and the benefits they bring are at risk, we have strengthened our commitment to a healthy environment by adopting this action plan.

Action Plan for Pollinators: Our principles

The action plan consists of the following principles to be adopted with immediate effect, or to be applied to future projects, asset management plans and decision-making processes as and when they are developed and/or reviewed:

Highway verges

We will extend the successful verge trials to become the norm. Verge cuttings are collected to reduce fertility and grass growth. This allows wildflowers to compete with grass for space to grow. Lower fertility verges will, over time, need less cutting, save money and deliver a higher quality roadside environment. This will be coupled with the sowing of spring and late summer flowering wildflower seed to benefit pollinators.

Green assets

Our country parks, green spaces and other land holdings will encourage the planting of flower species and management of habitats beneficial to pollinators. Management plans for  sites will make specific provision for pollinators and include measures to maximise pollinator populations.

Neonicotinoid pesticides

We will prohibit use of neonicotinoid pesticides on our land where we have power to enforce it. The only exception would be for county farms where the terms of existing tenancies may prevent this being applied. However, current tenants will be encouraged to comply on a voluntary basis and to take other actions that might benefit pollinators. We will look at including such a prohibition in future tenancy agreements.

Planning and development

In discharging its functions as a planning authority, and in giving planning advice via its environmental advisory services, the County Council will seek to ensure that pollinator habitats are protected and enhanced, and will require, where possible, that new development results in a net gain for pollinators in line with national and locally adopted planning policies.

Tree and shrub planting

Where possible, our arboriculture and green space management services will plant spring flowering trees such as cherry, apple, hawthorn, blackthorn and sallow, which will benefit pollinators.

Hedgerows

Where consistent with good health and safety policy and environmental land management agreements, hedgerows will be cut less often to allow longer flowering periods for nectar-rich species.

Project development and delivery

Planning for pollinators will be considered at an early stage in any infrastructure projects, such as highway schemes, applying lessons from the successful Weymouth Relief Road project as a model for how major infrastructure projects can enhance wildlife habitats.

Research and evidence

We will consider the latest scientific evidence on pollinator health and how we respond to emerging research, such as on the impacts of light pollution on nocturnal pollinators, in our future decision-making, asset management and service planning.

Implementation and review

The council's environment service will take the lead in ensuring that other county council services know about this action plan, giving training and support where needed to help services put it into use. The action plan will be kept under review with periodic reports to the appropriate committee, ensuring that further opportunities to benefit pollinators are identified and pursued.

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