On Wednesday 19th September 2012, at a full meeting of Eastbourne Borough Council, Councillor Steve Wallis, holder of the Environment portfolio in the council’s Cabinet, proposed a motion in support of the Bee Cause. The motion was as follows:
“that this authority supports the Friends of the Earth Bee Cause initiative, and will continue to ensure that where suitable, all planting undertaken within the parks and gardens owned by the Council will support bee and other pollinating insects lifestyles”
The Co-ordinator of Eastbourne & District Friends of the Earth, Andy Durling, was invited to make a short speech in favour of the motion. Afterwards the motion was briefly discussed by the councillors present before a vote on it was taken. The vote was overwhelmingly for the motion to be passed.
The full text of Andy Durling’s speech (which in reality had to be truncated slightly to fit in with the 3 minutes allocated!) is given below:
BEE CAUSE PRESENTATION TO EASTBOURNE COUNCIL
ON 19 SEPTEMBER 2012.
We all know that we depend upon nature and its abundance of resources for our own survival and flourishing. But the health of that natural world is increasingly under threat. Bees are an essential part of the natural world and are iconic in demonstrating the degree to which we are dependent upon nature. Quite simply, without bees we will struggle to survive, let alone flourish. And British bees are in dire peril. We all know that honey bees are under threat due to a collapse in honeybee colonies of over 50% during the last 20 years. But all of Britain’s 267 species of bees are also under threat, declining dramatically in numbers, with some species now extinct. There are many causes for this, but the main cause is quite simply loss of habitat. Queen Elizabeth 2 has been on the throne for 60 years now, and in that time 97% of our wildflower meadows – the main habitat for bees – have disappeared. Without bees, 75% of our crops and fruits will disappear because of the loss of the bees’ pollination services. Only this week there was an article in the Daily Telegraph which pointed out that 20% of the UK apple crop has been lost this year because of the poor weather preventing bees from pollinating the commercial orchards properly; this may well become a long-term trend as global warming impacts ever more severely on the British climate. Without bees, the cost of pollination by artificial means will be at least £1.8 billion according to the latest research by Reading University, a summary of which is available in this briefing paper. That is more than it costs British farmers to produce all the UK’s milk.
There is much valuable work being done by your Parks & Gardens department, in conjunction with groups like Friends of Hampden Park and Friends of Gildredge Park, in protecting and creating rich pockets of biodiversity within Eastbourne, and I have seen at first hand the beneficial effects this has on bees, especially within places like Hampden Park. That is to be celebrated. But this is only a first step. Bees need special protection because of the multiple threats facing them, and given that the industrialised nature of modern farming, with its widespread use of pesticides dangerous to bees, is wreaking havoc to bees in the countryside, what happens inside our urban areas is crucial in helping bees survive. Therefore, bee-friendly policies have to be integrated into all the council’s activities and programmes, so that our parks & public spaces are not just fragmented refuges for bees, but are linked up into wildlife corridors by sensitive bee-friendly management and planning of hedges, verges, roads, high streets and estates throughout Eastbourne. This, together with the encouragement of all Eastbourne residents to adopt bee-friendly practices within their own gardens, will help bees to truly flourish again.
Many local councils have already taken action to create local bee and pollinator action plans within their areas, and the Welsh government has recently committed to a Bee Action Plan for the whole of Wales. I and my colleagues in Eastbourne Friends of the Earth are willing to do all we can to help you and all other local community and environmental groups, as well as the local beekeeping fraternity, to create and implement a local bee and pollinator plan for the whole of Eastbourne.
To summarise, the Bee Cause campaign being run by Eastbourne Friends of the Earth, and which is fully behind this motion today, is seeking to end the problem of bee decline as, I’m sure you’ll agree with me, we don’t want to still be hearing reports of bees being in trouble in 5 or 10 years’ time. That’s why we seek national government leadership via a UK Bee Action Plan as well as local action by councils and communities. I urge you to show leadership in saving our bees by supporting this motion and doing all you can to make it a reality throughout the whole of Eastbourne. This will be supporting not only the Bee Cause campaign but also the great work already done for bees by many other organisations, such as the Women’s Institute, the Co-op, the Soil Association, Sussex Wildlife Trust, and academic bodies such as Sussex University, with whom Friends of the Earth are working to promote the right plants for pollinators such as bees. Thank you.
Councillor Steve Wallis, the proposer of the motion, also spoke in support of the motion, and he has generously given permission for the text of his speech to be freely distributed:
ADDRESS BY COUNCILLOR WALLIS TO EASTBOURNE COUNCIL ON 19 SEPTEMBER 2012 IN SUPPORT OFTHE BEE CAUSE MOTION:
Thank you Mr. Mayor,
Can I also thank Mr. Andrew Durling from the Friends of the Earth, who are relatively new to Eastbourne, but are already having a positive impact. And I hope they will soon be joining the Community Environment Partnership for Eastbourne.
There is a saying Mr. Mayor: ‘That everyday is a school day’ and I certainly learnt a lot when I attended and chaired the Friends of the Earth Bee Cause evening back in July. This event was well attended with approximately 70 people, it was essentially an awareness campaign that included stalls, information packs, a question and answer session, but the main feature was an 80 minute film on the plight of bees both here in the UK and globally.
To be honest I was distressed to learn about how many bee populations are treated. How their habitats are being destroyed, they are transported vast miles to pollinate, how they are artificially inseminated, the conditions they live in that make them prone to disease. The film was a real eye-opener.
And because of these circumstances they are fast becoming endangered. Many wild bumbles bees and solitary bees are declining at an alarming rate, three bumblebee species are already extinct and 25% of British bees are listed as a threatened species.
But why should we care? Well there are numerous reasons:
Bees are essential to our food supply – 75% of crops worldwide depend on bees and other pollinators.
Without them food prices would rise as British farmers alone would have to spend £1.8 billion pounds on pollinating crops.
I am sure that everybody in this room today has eaten something that has been produce thanks to the activity of bees.
They also pollinate 75% of Britain’s wild flowers.
So their importance to our economy, ecosystems and the environment is obvious.
So I find it astonishing that governments are doing little to protect them. The many challenges facing pollinating insects include, intensive farming, climate change, loss of habitat, pesticides and disease. This month alone the British government refused to ban a pesticide that is used on plants but poisons bees, this is extradinary complacent, especially as other governments in France, Italy and the USA have either banned this particular pesticide or are planning to do so. I do find this government’s attitude to the environment and our wildlife rather poor, what with recent relaxation on planning laws, the culling of badgers and now the reluctance to ban pesticides.
So, yet again, it is down to people, councils and organisations at a local level to try and turn things around and make improvements.
In Eastbourne we already do some work to protect bee and insect habitats and we work closely with the various friends groups. Princes Park, Motcombe Gardens, Hampden Park, Gildredge Park and Manor Gardens are all green spaces that either have wild flower meadows or areas where maintenance is kept to a minimum.
But there is more we can do, and will do, from new wildflower planting, to insect friendly cultivated plants, bee beds, log piles, providing water, create ‘bee friendly reserves’, allowing grass to grow, replace dead or dying plants with nectar rich perennials.
To make this motion succeed the support of members would be required in two ways:
Exploring the parks and gardens in their wards with residents’ or friends groups, feeding this information back to the parks and gardens team as well as Friends of the Earth. This coordinated approach will ensure we expand on our bee friendly spaces.
The other issue is dealing with negativity; Gareth Williams has to deal with accusations of council neglect where residents are complaining that a specific part of a park is not mowed. These areas are left untouched to assist insect and bird life, not as a result of any cuts in budget, and if members can assist in getting that message across, it would make life easier for the parks and gardens team.
So in summary, please support my motion, let’s work at how we can improve our many parks and gardens for the benefit of birds, bees and butterflies. If approved the work will start immediately on a coordinated approach to this serious issue.