Thursday 20 July 2017

Yet more correspondence with City Deal re. Arbury Road

Ms Stoppard,

Without talking to me I don't get why you think you can't appease me.

I didn't get as far as making final suggestions for what should be planted - as you know (and as City Deal website still shows) the plan was to remove and replant in Autumn and we were given less than a weeks notice about this change. I hadn't had time to finish a list of whats representative in local hedging ecology and culture - the only ones I did have as certainties were hawthorn (which would always be there in any mix) and greengage (which was not included but, infuriatingly, planted as 'specimen' trees on other green spaces, and its a great survivor in hedges but a very difficult specimen tree). I don't see that any suggestions made by me or anyone else locally have been incorporated, when no one really had time to finalise any suggestions. 

Since last talking to any of your colleagues you've mulched the site with wood chips - that meant that only those undergrowth plants with really ineradicable root-stocks (and which would re-grow from chopped up root portions) could thrive and spread. That means very few native species have come back, but a few species (cow parsley and bindweed in particular) are doing well - each of the bits of root grow back to new plants, and basically smother the site. They're excluding all other species from being able to establish, and competing very well against the hedging plants put in. In places bindweed is spreading over the top of the shrubs which will, obviously, threaten their survival. I can send you pictures of this if you like, there are spots where you can no longer see the shrubs. Without light, they'll die.

Bluntly, planting very late in the season (at short notice) meant no meaningful input could be given to species choice. This late in the season digging also killed off already germinating seed in the ground, and mulching has ensured that only a limited number of the most competitive species could re-grow there. Putting a fence up that bindweed can grow up and more effectively smother the hedge, one with gaps smaller than the hedgehogs that most often nest in the gardens on one side of the road but which forage on both sides, really did make it look amateurish. Our county councillor was told by Vanessa that they'd bought the wrong fence but put it up anyway.

All I want to achieve here is holes being cut in the fence, and getting some native undergrowth plug plants put in, probably in autumn, with some weeding of the most invasive species. That'll increase biodiversity, attract more insects (hence birds too), and crucially be less of problem in getting the shrubs you've planted established. Your officers won't even countenance discussing that - they're entirely dismissive of any re-planting and won't talk about it. But because of the mulch, if there is to be any restoration of habitat there this is the only route available to us, and its the only way (other than spraying or very expansive hand-weeding) to compete with the bindweed thats otherwise very likely to kill off some of the shubs over the next couple of years.

Other matters (making out as if the choice of shrubs to be planted was open to consultation despite the fact that they had been ordered already) are secondary to trying to get a resolution on the ground that isn't so brutally hostile to wildlife. I believe said resolution will cost a couple of hundred quid but will require getting plug plants of native species ordered earlier rather than later, for planting in autumn. There are numerous companies that can supply said plants, but its hard to achieve this as a rushed, last minute order.

Its too late to entirely fix the planting scheme but it isn't to late to rescue something from this - can you make time for a chat to discuss what can be done? Going forward it seems important that ecological considerations are something City Deal can take seriously. Are you willing to give that a shot?

CAB Davidson.

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