New grassland strategy aims to help climate change and increase biodiversity in Kirkcaldy

Some areas of grassland in the Kirkcaldy area are to be left to grow as part of Fife Council’s bid to contribute towards climate change.

Monday, 3rd May 2021, 12:30 pm
Fife Council is looking at new ways to manage some of its grassland areas.

Members of the Kirkcaldy Area Committee agreed to go ahead with proposals from council officers to allow some green spaces in our communities to grow during the spring and summer, before the grass will be cut in the autumn.

The creation of these wilder areas through the grassland management programme aims to contribute to climate change obligations by reducing carbon emitted by the activities on the land and creating habitats that support an abundance of biodiversity in plants and wildlife.

Local sites identified include parts of Beveridge, Dunnikier and Beveridge parks.

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John Rodigan, senior manager for environment and building services, told a meeting last week that the proposal would see boundaries and footpaths through the areas maintained throughout the year. He said the areas will be closely monitored and any litter or fly tipping would be removed as quickly as possible.

Mr Rodigan admitted that despite the simplicity of the approach, it is one that polarises views and said that they way things worked last year was not ideal.

He said: "The way it was done last year put people on the back foot and it felt like it was being brought in without due process, community involvement and approval.

"The reality of that situation was that Covid regulations prevented us from recruiting around 80 seasonal workers who cut our grass every summer so we were really left with no choice but to leave some areas of grass uncut, but that predicament has no connection whatsoever with what we’re trying to do now.”

Giving his report, which included recommendations following a public engagement exercise, he moved to reassure councillors, and local communities that although an area is part of this programme, it could be reverted back to being cut if that’s what the community wants.

He said: “Any ground swell of complaint or wave of negative reaction will quickly result in the grass being cut again provided communities are fully represented they will get exactly what they want in their areas.”

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Councillors also heard of a similar programme which ran several years ago.

“This isn’t new in Fife,” Mr Rodigan continued. "In 2014 the Heritage Lottery Fund provided a grant for a three year Fife’s Buzzing project which saw 13 hectares of grass across 23 of our parks managed in this way, the same way that we’re proposing to do.”

The results showed the presence of eight species of insect increased to 122 in the space of two years, with 65 of them being pollinators. Other wildlife followed too.

Councillor Judy Hamilton raised concerns over the inclusion of Rabbit Braes as a proposed area for the programme, and it was agreed this could be looked at again.

Councillors agreed that communication surrounding the programme was particularly important to keep communities updated and informed about why things are being done this way.

Mr Rodigan confirmed that across Fife less than five per cent of grassed areas cut by the council have been identified as being part of this programme.

He said the longer term plan would be to look at increasing community understanding of what is happening in their environment and engaging them to help shape how it is managed.

Mr Rodigan added: “If it’s welcomed we could be at the start of a journey that completely changes our environment and ultimately our climate.”

The public engagement exercise took place online due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Across Fife, a total of 1480 respondents took part in the consultation.

In the Kirkcaldy area, 138 responses were received. and 72.5 per cent of individuals replied positively to the new grassland management strategy.

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