New grassland maintenance techniques aimed at increasing biodiversity in Perth and Kinross parks and open spaces could be extended after a successful trial run.
The trial, carried out during the 2021/22 and 2022/23 periods, explored new grasslands maintenance techniques that promoted increased levels of biodiversity.
The next meeting of the Climate Change and Sustainability Committee on Wednesday 31 May 2023 will hear about the outcome of the trial initiative and how it can be implemented going forward.
The trial encompassed two different approaches. The first involved "cut and lift" trials, where grass was mowed once annually, and the cuttings removed. This method aimed to reduce soil fertility, control common weed species, and promote wildflower diversity. The second approach focused on designating "No Mow" areas, where the grass remained untouched.
A total of 42 sites were part of the trial, with 34 designated as "No Mow" areas and eight as "Cut and Lift" areas. The trials successfully addressed the dual challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change while also offering cost savings by reducing fuel and chemical expenses.
Reducing grass cutting can help reduce carbon emissions, provide a more biodiverse and interesting landscape, improve health and wellbeing, whilst also reducing cost. Biodiversity can be increased by creating habitats for birds, insects, and small mammals, which do not exist in regularly cut grass.
To gauge community sentiment regarding the new approach, an online public consultation ran from February to the end of October 2022. The results of the consultation were overwhelmingly positive. With a total of 386 responses received, 73.8% were in favour of the proposals. Once concerns raised in the responses were addressed, the percentage in favour increased to 78%.
The Committee will be asked to approve a proposal to develop a long-term plan for grassland management, building on the success of the trials conducted in 2021/22 and 2022/23. The plan includes expanding the number of "No Mow" and "Cut and Lift" sites across Perth and Kinross.
To ensure active community participation, the proposal also recommends close collaboration between Council officers, community groups, and residents to shape future plans, subject to Committee approval in subsequent meetings. In support of engaging community groups, the Council has allocated £75,000 from its budget.
Climate Change and Sustainability Convener, Councillor Richard Watters said: "I am pleased to see the level of success the grasslands maintenance trials have had.
"I also believe it is time to rethink our approach to grass cutting in managed areas. By reducing the frequency of mowing, we can create a more diverse and thriving ecosystem that benefits our wildlife, insects, flowers and bees.
"This small change can make a big difference in promoting biodiversity and preserving our natural heritage for generations to come.
"It also comes with the added benefit of being more cost efficient in a time where there is ever increasing pressure on Council budgets."