Councillors at Babergh and Mid Suffolk have approved their first Biodiversity Action Plan to protect and strengthen biodiversity – supporting the councils’ carbon neutral aims.

Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils’ cabinets have unanimously agreed their Biodiversity Action Plan today, setting out how they aim to protect and strengthen biodiversity in the districts.

The plan was developed by a cross-party Biodiversity Task Force, supported by experts. It is the product of biodiversity emergency motions passed by both councils in 2019.

Its approval forms a key step towards achieving the councils’ ambitions to protect and enhance the environment, and links to their Joint Carbon Reduction Management Plan.

Headline commitments include:

  • developing a wildlife network map – to help identify and create important wildlife corridors, and tree and hedge planting areas. This will aim to enhance connectivity and improve management of existing as well as future Local Nature Reserves and wildlife sites in the district
  • planting wildflower meadow verges and changing strict grass cutting regimes where suitable; encouraging bees and insects
  • working with town and parish councils and local communities to identify areas where trees and hedges can be planted
  • increasing hedge planting through the DEFRA Hedgerows and Boundaries Grant scheme, and helping to fund planting which isn’t eligible where possible
  • developing a Supplementary Planning Document linked to the Joint Local Plan – to strengthen biodiversity protections and set out the districts’ expectations for design, landscaping and open space elements of new developments
  • exploring the possibility of a green burial site

Residents are also being encouraged to take action, however small, to increase biodiversity in their communities. This includes things such as installing bird and bat boxes, planting flowers to attract bees, creating hedgehog corridors, and being biodiversity-conscious when gardening.

Additionally, the councils’ Tree for Life scheme continues to offer local parents a tree to celebrate the arrival of a child, or remember babies sadly lost. The scheme will play an important role in the wider-districts’ biodiversity, using native, locally grown and sourced trees.

Cllr Elisabeth Malvisi, Babergh District Council’s cabinet member for environment, said:

“We know we already have beautiful biodiverse areas in our district, as highlighted in our recent ONS survey ranking. Whether they’re small nature reserves such as the Melford Walk or larger sites that fall into the AONB Stour Valley Project area such as Long Melford, these sites generate a biodiversity net gain.

“This plan not only helps us to protect what’s already beautiful about Babergh, but also puts in place steps to improve and strengthen it for future generations.

“There is now a recognised local, national as well as a global urgency to increase our biodiversity in order to improve our ecosystems and impact climate change. We recognise the role we play at a local level, and by approving this plan, to help protect our outdoor spaces and local nature reserves, we will be supporting the health and wellbeing of our residents, while also making sure Babergh remains a place we’re all proud to call home.”

Cllr Jessica Fleming, Mid Suffolk District Council’s cabinet member for environment, said:

“Achieving biodiversity net gain, and strengthening and enhancing our wildlife sites and open spaces, is fundamental to achieving our strategic priorities for the environment.

“Our open spaces, such as Needham Lake, are already a haven for wildlife, but we recognise the pressure that these areas are under. Working with our residents, there is a lot more we can do to create new habitats and encourage wildlife – if we all took even small actions like planting flowers or home composting it would make a huge difference.

“By working together, with and for our communities, we can help to build a brighter future for Mid Suffolk for years to come.”

The councils will continue to work closely with existing partners, including Suffolk County Council, and other non-governmental organisations, to protect natural habitats, and work towards the Suffolk-wide ambition to be carbon neutral by 2030.

Babergh’s recent decision to bring their public realm service in-house will also enable them, jointly with Mid Suffolk, to manage land more holistically to increase biodiversity.