Roger Proudfoot, Peterborough Green Party: Let’s aim for the best of both worlds

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With so much happening in the world right now, who would have thought the front page of the Peterborough Telegraph would be given over to an argument about grass.

But, it turns out, grass has become an issue of great concern to Peterborough residents all over the city. The problem is that the ‘amenity grass’, that’s the grass that grows on verges and recreational spaces, has enjoyed a seasonal growth spurt. With the help of periods of rain and sunshine, exactly the type of weather we expect in June, residents have reported grass as tall as a metre high in some areas.

A heated discussion on social media on the topic of Peterborough City Council’s grass-cutting policy led some residents to speculate that the council’s decision to cut the grass less frequently was made for environmental reasons.

This isn’t true.

As Peterborough City Council and its contractor AMEY have made clear, the number of grass cuts has been reduced purely to save money.

Unfortunately, amenity grass is of low value to wildlife as it simply does not provide the right habitat nor does it contain the right nutrients required for wildlife to thrive. Left to its own devices, the wrong type of grass will dominate and the wild flowers that are necessary for wildlife to benefit will fail to thrive. To counter this, we need wild flower seeding programmes. The assumption that a beautiful biodiversity will simply appear if grass is not cut is, alas, untrue.

Wildlife in England is in peril, with up to 60% of our native species in decline. More well-managed grassland is desperately needed. Grassland can contain as many as 10 more species of animals and plants and up to 50 times more individuals. It can also provide a haven for insects, moths and butterflies, hunting grounds for frogs and newts and a food source for birds and mammals such as hedgehogs.

We would love to have more managed meadowland across our city. However, as you may have noticed, uncut verges and recreation fields don’t magically turn into beautiful meadows. In fact, long grass is a menace that conceals dog mess, tics and broken glass.

Peterborough Green Party calls on Peterborough City Council to introduce a well-defined long-term grass-cutting strategy through consultation with local communities and parish councils that keeps recreation grass short while encouraging grassland in nominated areas, such as verges, to thrive.

Other parts of the country have reported a reduction in crime and anti-social behaviours in areas where grasslands have been encouraged.

Peterborough residents have grown used to looking out onto neat grass verges. However, properly-maintained grasslands and meadows are far more beautiful. They smell wonderful, too.

We urge Peterborough City Council to focus resources on maintaining recreational amenity grass and to begin a programme to turn verges and areas not required for recreation or dog-walking into properly-managed grasslands.

With a bit of further thought we can have the best of both worlds.