I will not catalogue all the activities to promote the continued existence of
wildlife in general, and lepidoptera in particular, that have taken place in my
local authority during this new millennium. Suffice it to say there are a lot,
many of which have been referred to in previous newsletters. However, it might
be useful to highlight to whom approaches were made since this should give you
ideas how to instigate a similar campaign in your local authority area.
The successful campaigns to protect Hawne Colliery and question the need for the proposed Dudley bypass extension started by contacting the Planning Department. In both cases the final judgement went to adjudication by an Independent Government Inspector since the Unitary Development Plan, a ten year planning policy document, was in the final throes of endorsement. Both the proposed schemes would impact on its structure, hence the involvement of the Inspector, but I now understand this is not the norm.
Do not for one moment think that just objecting is the only route to success. When a leading councillor said to me ‘You wildlife people always tell us what we can’t do’ I realised we would never win the war if that is people’s reaction to our aims. Since then I have been an advocate of partnership.
Initiatives to improve current habitat, such as the council’s parks and open spaces, started by local councillors approaching me, sometimes after they had received representations from local interest groups. A good example is the flagship borough park, namely Mary Stevens in Stourbridge. The ‘Friends of Mary Stevens’ Group were initially motivated by growing levels of vandalism and not biodiversity. However, what is better than a thorny hedge to keep out miscreants along with a wildlife hedge margin that local schools can monitor as part of the Community Plan and Lifelong Learning initiatives.
Finally, do not forget a council’s ‘amenity department’, the one responsible for dustbins, litter, grass cutting, spraying etc. In Dudley it is called Engineering for some strange reason that is lost on me. It became increasingly apparent that they had an equal, if not greater, impact on biodiversity than the Countryside Services Department, the latter being responsible for nature reserves and nature friendly areas. Engineering has always been difficult to influence. I now know why. How would you react if you get about a hundred complaints a day from ratepayers and councillors without adequate funds to address issues in an appropriate manner? We therefore approached them officially through the council’s LA21 Committee, where I am a member. In a formal meeting we agreed to a ‘step-by-step’ approach to improve current practices in a cost neutral manner but also get favourable publicity. We nearly had our hands bitten off by their enthusiasm.
All this has not been a ‘one-man-band’ and I would like to thank the following for their contributions –
Local Branch Members who have both recorded butterflies and sent in their records to inform the Council and those that wrote to object to the proposed developments at Hawne Colliery and the Bypass Extension - Mrs Armstrong, Celia Barton, Eric Bird, Mark Chester, Colin Hale, Steve & Carol Harper, Keith Harris, Tony Marsh, Brian Marsh, Joy Stevens, Jim Whitehouse, Nick Williams and Richard Woolley. I special thanks to Dave White for his transect data at Hawne which was so influential during the appeal process.
Local Agenda 21 Organisations who have either been pressure groups, other wildlife organisations or educational bodies – Stourbridge College, Nick Williams – British Trust Conservation Volunteers, Richard Billingsley & Alison Wilkes - Soroptomists, Iris Berrow - Halesowen Wildlife Group, Colin & Hazel Gurney – British Waterways, Paul Wilkinson – Friends of Bumble Hole, Mike Parks - Urban Wildlife Trust, Chris Parry & Paul Stephenson.
Local Council Officials - Planning Department, Ali Glaisher & John Mainwaring - Countryside Services, Kevin Clements, Jonathon Preston, Antony Ravenscroft & Anna Gorski - Engineering, Russell Newey – Community Plan Officer, Alex Webb.
Other organisations and Individuals – EcoRecord, Sara Carvalho – Birmingham University, Dr Andrew Pullin & Alison Loram, the latter who is about to publish her doctorate on ‘Butterfly species in urban grasslands’ – Pensnett Wildlife Group, Brian Marsh & Celia Barton – Halesowen Township Council, I have learned a huge amount about planning regulations and technical details from Mike & Carol Freer, a special thanks – WM Police, Dave Friday who has championed the cause of biodiversity, kept me informed and put up with my constant queries on moth identification – Dave Grundy for getting a number of moths into the area’s Biodiversity Action Plan, more on this in the future I predict - Non Ratepayer Branch Members, John Wills, Alan Prior & Val Weston, and all those who wrote to object to the planning consent at Anchor Meadow that prompted all this local activity – The Media, including BBC Midlands Today, the Birmingham Post and the Express & Star – Commerce, Chelsfield PLC (Merry Hill) & LCP Properties (Pensnett Trading Estate) - and last but not least , all the Local Councillors from all political persuasions who took more than a passing interest.
My apologies in advance for anyone I have missed either due to my memory or those that did something anonymously. Has wildlife benefited? Yes it has. The improving habitat infrastructure in the borough is flagging up more colonies of Dingy Skipper and Green Hairstreak who are finding new locations in which to breed suggesting Dudley is reversing the national trend.
And the future? Wildlife will go on in Dudley with so many ‘safe pairs of hands’ taking an active interest but my hope is the newsletter will receive articles of others experiences in your metropolitan boroughs and rural districts throughout the branch territory. It’s already happening in Stoke but what about ………?