Thanet council will recruit an aboricultural specialist, carry out ecological risk assessments for a variety of parks and open spaces works and has bought, as a trial at this stage, an infrared imaging wildlife camera.
These are part of a list of improvements the authority has pledged to make following an uproar over the severe cutting back of hedgerows at Margate Winter Gardens last month, during nesting season.
Those works prompted a protest from the Thanet Trees group and plans for a demonstration outside Thanet council’s offices on Thursday (July 11).
Now council leader Bob Bayford has issued a statement outlining planned improvements for carrying out hedge and tree maintenance work in the future.
He said: “We have received a significant number of complaints and media attention regarding the hedge maintenance work carried out at the Winter Gardens on Tuesday 4 June.
“Although Kent Police have confirmed they found no evidence of any disturbance or damage to nesting birds and therefore concluded that no offences have been committed under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, we are keen to improve the processes followed in relation to this work in the future and are:
- Seeking information from other Councils to understand what processes they have in place and if any examples of better practice exist.
- Recruiting an arboricultural officer as soon as possible, even though this isn’t a requirement.
- Developing an improved process, including how to deal with complaints about tree/hedge works.
- Carrying out ecological risk assessments for a variety of parks and open spaces works, following the improved process and including the use of new technology. We have purchased, as a trial at this stage, an infrared imaging wildlife camera. This will be used alongside traditional methods of ecological monitoring as part of the prescribed process that must be followed before works are carried out. Check sheets will be included as part of the ecological risk assessment to ensure compliance is documented. Recommendations are being sought from the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts and other local authorities to help shape this.
- Drafting new parks and open spaces service standards – to be approved and published on the council’s website so the public know what to expect from us and what we expect from them.
- Conducting a review into our arrangements with contractors, including exploring a new permit to work process for any contractor carrying out work on our behalf.
- Training staff, supervisors and service manager on new processes, how to handle complaints and how to prioritise work based on process, legislation and to ensure balance with other relevant sensitivities.”
Members of the Thanet Trees group will be holding a protest outside the Thanet council offices this Thursday (July 11).
The demonstration will take place at 6pm, prior to the full council meeting at 7pm, and is aimed at demanding a full biodiversity strategy and accountability for all actions past, present and future.
The group hopes members of the public will join them and is appealing for people to create banners. They also hope to make a giant bird to represent those disturbed during the cutback of hedgerows at Margate Winter Gardens last month.
Thanet Trees spokesperson Amelia Gregory said: “Thanet Trees are very pleased to read that safeguarding our natural environment has become a hot topic at Thanet District Council and that there will at last be some attention given to this very important subject.
“We applaud the plans to learn about best process and practices from other councils, which certainly do exist. In fact, we googled “local council biodiversity plan” and found at least 15 web pages of action plans from local councils across the UK. The bigger question is why TDC has never felt the need to have one, in light of the current climate and biodiversity emergencies, and when we are losing land and trees faster than almost anywhere else in the country.
“Many councils have had these plans in place for a decade or more. We are at least 10 years behind the most forward thinking councils in the UK. It’s time to crack on and catch up!
“It’s fantastic to hear that a tree officer will be employed once more, given the speed with which we are losing trees in Thanet. We did, until recently, have a very good and well liked tree officer. However he was “let go”. Within TDC’s Open Spaces management review it would be good to find out exactly why we lost our tree officer and how trees have been managed in the period since then. We also need a qualified horticulturalist, as previous ones have also been sadly “lost
“We regularly struggle to understand what kind of strategy is in place with regards to biodiversity in Thanet, we struggle to use the TDC planning portal and we struggle to get a response from the relevant departments. So it would great to hear what exactly an improved process would consist of. We are pleased to hear TDC will be running ecological assessments in our parks and open spaces. What kind of assessments will these be? It is mentioned that basic checklists will need to be completed to ensure compliance before any work commences. What is the method that is currently used? In our opinion there is no way that a visual check would have been enough to establish whether birds were indeed nesting in the dense Winter Gardens hedgerows. Heat sensing technology would have been needed and should have been used. Can we infer from the new goals that only a cursory visual check was made before the flailers moved in?
“We are looking forward to the new parks and open spaces services standards, because the current ones which are published online are not adhered to in any meaningful way.
“It is our belief that more qualified staff are urgently needed in the Open Spaces department. A review was also promised, when will this be done? Finally, on the subject of the Winter Gardens, and re-growth, there has been zero regrowth of the hedges, suggesting that they have in fact been killed by the actions of the flailers.”