Agenda item

Tackling the Ecological Emergency

To consider the report of the Director Net Zero Exeter and City Management.




The Interim Service Lead Public and Green Space and the Director Net Zero Exeter and City Management presented the update report on the current position of Biodiversity practices in light of the Ecological Emergency declared by the Council in April 2021.


Particular reference was made to:-


·         at the commencement of the partnership with the Devon Wildlife Trust, biodiversity development had operated with a focus on project development but this had come to an end when the post of an officer with the appropriate experience to identify funding, plan, and deliver on projects ceased. However, the ethos and collaborative working with the Trust continued;

·         the focus is now on delivering acceptable and sustainable programmes in frontline maintenance such as: wild flowers across Exeter, the meadow grass programme, and tailored planting programmes that look to use phytosensors (carbon absorbing  shrubs). Such small scale operational changes should deliver benefits on aggregate;

·         discussions on regeneration are likely to stem from the Exeter Local Plan and planning policy development, as will the new habitat map. There remains a place for large and impactful projects, such as the Northbrook arboretum, again through the partnership with Devon Wildlife Trust. However, this will be on a case-by-case basis as resources allows;

·         with regard to Arboriculture, species diversity and planting diversity is standard practice to help create a resilient tree stock with planting targeted to areas of low canopy;

·         ongoing investigations were continuing into reducing glyphosate use further. To date, there were no new systems on the market and the constraints to both cost and efficacy still apply for current alternatives. As a result, there have been no additional savings reductions this year, but the service continues to explore possibilities for further reductions each year; and

·         biodiversity development and glyphosate reductions remain active priorities for the service.


The following responses were given to Members’ queries:-


·         the figure of 120 litres of glyphosate usage in 2022 was that of the City Council alone. Devon County Council would be requested to provide their figures. The increase in the level of glyphosate use reflected the spraying of hard surface areas across Council housing stock;

·         in offering the public the opportunity to maintain their own streets or areas outside their properties, regard to operational requirements was necessary, for example, it would not be logical for one individual to maintain the whole of Topsham Road but it was also operationally unachievable for opt outs to only encompass the area in front of a property;

·         the City and County Councils were unable to influence weed clearance practices within private housing developments;

·         the city’s valley parks were maintained ostensibly by the Devon Wildlife Trust under lease, although the City Council retains some duties as part of that lease. Hoopern Valley is not a Council site and it is owned and maintained by the University of Exeter;

·         a baseline on biodiversity was not currently available within the Council, however national habitat and species registers were accessible online. It was hoped to create a new updated  habitat map, but this would be subject to available resources within the planning policy team;

·         it was hoped that further work could be undertaken in the future on tree cover in the city in line with the I-Tree Canopy Cover report;

·         the cost of re-seeding areas of the city such as Northernhay Gardens following events such as the Food and Drink Festival was met by the organisers within an agreed timescale;

·         public response to the grass cutting of verges and grassed areas varied, but it was clear that there was a much greater understanding of the rationale behind the meadow grass programme and its goal of sustainability; and

·         the Devon Wildlife Trust were to shortly commence monitoring of the swift tower, It was noted that swifts took time to adopt a new home.  


A Member moved that the Local Plan team be requested to lead on the production of a Biodiversity Status Report, a Nature Recovery Plan and a Tree Canopy Cover Action Plan for inclusion within the Local Plan, with specific and measurable targets for Exeter. Members noted the budgetary and resource implications this would entail.


The motion was moved, seconded and carried.




(1)        the report be noted; and


(2)        the Local Plan team be requested to lead on the production of a Biodiversity Status Report, a Nature Recovery Plan and a Tree Canopy Cover Action Plan for inclusion within the Local Plan, with specific and measurable targets for Exeter.


Supporting documents: