Rewilding programme to help tackle climate emergency

New habitats for wildlife to help mitigate the effects of climate change are to be created across North Somerset.

North Somerset Council declared a climate emergency earlier this year and in July councillors agreed unanimously to put in place a rewilding programme across the district.

Since then officers have been identifying areas of council-owned land as potential sites for rewilding by planting trees or allowing the grass to grow taller.

The council owns around 2.5 million square metres of verges, parks and open spaces where the grass is mown regularly. Under its rewilding programme it is looking to increase wildlife and biodiversity by converting around 16 per cent of this “amenity grass” to tall grass areas and a further 10 per cent to woodland.

This will result in around 40 new hectares of tall grass and 20 new hectares of woodland across the district enabling wildlife to flourish.

Creating the woodland areas will involve planting around 50,000 young trees called “whips” which will be protected by biodegradable tubes. These will be planted in phases over the next three years with the initial 5,000 being planted early in the new year.

The tall grass sites will also be introduced over the next three years, starting next summer.

The estimated cost of obtaining and planting the new trees is £50,000 which will be funded from various sources including the Woodland Trust, Forestry Commission and Natural England.

A report outlining the rewilding programme will be considered by the council’s Community and Corporate Organisation Policy and Scrutiny Panel next Tuesday (5 November).

Following this, town and parish councils, residents and community groups will be consulted on the potential sites that have been identified by the council. This consultation will run until the end of January.

“We will be seeking people’s views on the suitability of the areas we have identified for rewilding and also asking for suggestions of other potential sites,” said Cllr Caritas Charles, executive member responsible for green spaces and community engagement.

“Once the sites have been finalised the specification for the new grounds and tree maintenance contract will be prepared to reflect the council’s ambitions with maintenance programmes changed to favour wildlife and biodiversity.”

Cllr Bridget Petty, executive member for environment and climate emergency, said the council will also be helping towns, parishes and community groups across North Somerset with their rewilding projects as well as adopting its own rewilding programme.

“Taller grass provides many benefits to wildlife including shelter as well as somewhere to hunt, feed and breed,” she said. “And it’s widely recognised that trees provide significant benefits to local communities, wildlife and in addressing climate change.

“We will be looking for volunteers to help us plant and look after the new trees. This will be a great opportunity for local people to get involved in a practical way with helping to address the climate emergency.”

The report going to the Community and Corporate Organisation Policy and Scrutiny Panel van be viewed on the council’s website at: