‘Leaner, smarter’ biodiversity action plan being drafted by council

Caledonian Park. Photograph: Gordon Joly.

A ‘leaner’ and ‘smarter’ biodiversity action plan is in the process of being drafted by Islington Council.

The news comes as UN biodiversity chief Cristiana Pașca Palmer calls out loss of diversity within ecosystems a ‘silent killer’ as dangerous as climate change, stating that humanity has two years to halt its decline or risk extinction.

Earth has seen a loss of 60 per cent in the size of mammal, bird, fish, reptile and amphibian populations in just over four decades, according to the WWF’s Living Planet Report 2018.

Founder and CEO of The Garden Classroom Marnie Rose said: “It’s great news that the plan is being redrafted. I know there’s no money in any councils, but I think if there was an action plan and a budget to deliver it, that could be really fruitful.

“A few years ago there was a biodiversity officer, and due to the cuts, he left. So I think biodiversity is going to become more important, as I would have thought the more necessary development on housing we do, how is that going to impact on flora and fauna in the borough?”

Rose was speaking at a meeting which heard from representatives of council-supported charities Octopus Communities and The Garden Classroom, who praised their working relationship with Islington’s parks department as “yes-focused”, and welcomed a concrete strategy from which to work.

Octopus representatives Julie Parish and Anita Gracie were similarly positive on their working relationship with the council, and went on to point out that borough green spaces such as Caledonian Park had a tendency to be too overly landscaped for ‘wild play.’

The importance of biodiversity to Islington had cross party agreement at the 5 November meeting of the council’s environment & regeneration scrutiny committee.

Cllr Tricia Clarke (Lab, St George’s), said: “This is a big issue for me, and because of the economic situation we’re in at the moment, biodiversity is being put under pressure because of the pesticides that are being used.”

Cllr Caroline Russell (Green, Highbury East), underlined its ‘importance’, adding: “What’s the process for the community to input into and engage with [the plan], to say, oh, we could chip in with this?

“If we don’t have a biodiversity officer, we actually need the community to be doing everything possible to help to make sure that opportunities to promote and enable biodiversity to thrive are taken.”

The revelation on the upcoming new plan was made by head of public realm (greenspace and leisure) Andrew Bedford, who said that the council was thinking in terms of a “bigger, broader picture” around green roofs, improvement of green infrastructure, and sustainable drainage schemes, “rather than just thinking about log piles in parks.”

Bedford said: “We’ve obviously had a biodiversity action plan for a number of years, but we’ve just had a new one drafted up, and we’ve got a briefing paper prepared for Cllr Claudia Webbe [Lab, Bunhill, executive member for environment and transport].

“Our plan has been revised to be a bit leaner and smarter than the previous ones, focusing around key habitats that we can take forward.

“We don’t have a specific biodiversity officer anymore, but we do have a nature conservation team and manager, so we are relatively well-resourced considering the size and nature of the borough. Other boroughs have nobody.

“Some parks will be wilder than others, and there’s always a balance to be struck between people who like parks more formal, and those who like them wilder. It’s not just about parks, but the broader public realm.”