Can’t see audio player? Click here
This weekend saw the campaign kick off for the upcoming election for the newly created position of Police and Crime Commissioner. For those who don’t know, the idea is that on the 15th November we are going to elect one person to deal with how crime is tackled in the local area. It’s a new idea and, according to BBC reports, not a very popular one. Only a third of people in polls actually say that they like the idea (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18505181).
As someone who tragically suffers from a serious case of not-having-a-life, I had agreed to give up my weekend to go and canvass for the Conservative candidate, Julie Ills.
With the national press pumping out cynicism so sharp that it should carry a health and safety warning, I was slightly worried as I took up my clipboard and headed into Camberley with members of Conservative Future.
The result? A very warm reception to the idea of police elections. Nearly everyone who wasn’t in a hurry to catch a loose child, or to escape from the freak heatwave who stopped to talk to us had loads to say.
BBC eat your heart out. We don’t know which way this election is going to go, but we can already say that, at least in Surrey, people are giving a damn.
This guest blog was written by Camberley resident Oliver Lewis
I’m sorry but there’s no getting around it, Surrey Heath’s green spaces are bland. Bland, bland, bland. Travel around locally and all you see is neatly mown grass, in the summer there aren’t even daisies. It’s all clinical, unattractive and ecologically sterile. Surrey does have some flower beds but, in common with almost every other Council in the country, these tend to be regimented, neat lines of greenhouse grown plants that have been bred for their colour and drought resistance.
The problem is that these plants, as well as being rather dull in their uniformity, produce virtually no nectar which, according to new theories by the scientific community is behind the UK’s dwindling number of pollinating insects. There are some disturbing facts; 98% of Britain’s wild meadows and flowers have been lost in the last 60 years. England’s bees are vanishing faster than anywhere else in Europe, with more than half of hives dying out over the last 20 years and in the last six years alone two species of bee have become nationally extinct and seven more endangered.
The reasons for this decline may be many and varied but loss of nectar rich plants is defiantly a contributory factor. So what have Surrey’s neatly mown verges got to do with all this? Well, there is a growing movement, within the more progressive councils across the country, to turn council owned green spaces into native wildflower meadows. These councils have realised that wild flowers are not only beautiful and cost less to maintain, but they also keep the grass in check and reduce the need for lawn mowing. Quite simply, unmown does not mean untidy. Surrey Heath should follow this example and look at converting some of its green spaces into wild meadows.
Before anyone gets too upset I’m not suggesting for one moment that we dig up the local sports facilities, nor that the local parks and amenities be given over to wholesale “meadowification” but what about the surrounding areas, the verges, the quaint and twee regimented flower beds? Right now they are just bland displays, not doing anything for the insects and certainly not doing anything for our eyes or wallets.
Wild flower gardening has many advantages, the flowers have adapted to our environment and so need minimal tending, they are nectar rich thus improving the food supply for the insects, they are cheap, which has to be good for the budget (last year the Borough Council spent £550,520 on contractors to maintain green spaces) and they are so much prettier than the oceans of mowed lawn.
The Councils that have experimented with wild flower beds and have reported near universal approval.
Unsurprisingly people tend to prefer walking past beautiful arrays of colour teaming with insects rather than the bland, grassy deserts that we have now. There has even been some fascinating research which suggests that areas with wildflower meadows have less anti-social behaviour. Some cities have noted the beneficial effects that come with planting wild flowers around council estates.
I am currently looking into ways of making this happen and looking to pressure our local councillors into embracing a new scheme that will help Surrey Heath go wild. By learning from other councils we can make Surrey Heath so much more beautiful, so much more complimentary to local wildlife and cheaper to run. Any support you can give would be wonderful, writing to your councillors and saying that you want a cheaper, prettier Surrey Heath will go a long way towards turning our bland green spaces into oases of natural beauty.