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Westport to change grass-cutting for biodiversity


Anton McNulty

The designation of biodiversity areas in Westport should not be used as an excuse not to cut the grass around the town, a local councillor has warned.
Independent councillor Christy Hyland made the comment following a presentation by Deirdre Cunningham, the Heritage Officer with Mayo County Council on Westport’s Biodiversity Plan.
The presentation was made at last week’s monthly meeting of the West Mayo Municipal District where Ms Cunningham outlined that they have identified six biodiversity areas in Westport.
Along with planting trees and hedges, Ms Cunningham explained that they will look at changing the mowing regime within housing estates and along road verges.
“One of the things we looked at was within the housing estates and how can we introduce more wildlife into the housing estates. Maybe looking at grass cutting regimes and introduce more pollinator friendly planting and wildflower meadows,” she said.
On the cutting of road verges she explained: “We are not talking about not cutting them but do we need to have them cut as often and as short. Maybe just leave a strip of uncut grass along verges,” she said adding that they wanted to protect pollinators.

The plan is due to be launched later this month and the members were informed that the launch will include a workshop around biodiversity and making the public aware of the plan.
Cllr Christy Hyland proposed and welcomed the plan but stated that not cutting grass may be an issue of contention.
“We understand about biodiversity and looking after the bees but you will get questioned about the grass growing long and where the kiddies are going to play. I hope the local authority will not use it as an excuse not to cut grass where they are allowed to cut grass,” he said.
The six biodiversity areas identified in Westport are Westport House, Rampart Wood, Northwood, Colonels Wood, Roman Island and Cloonmanad Westlands and Ms Cunningham said the plan was being delivered in partnership with Westport Tidy Towns. She said they were looking to create ecological corridors to join up these areas along with ‘stepping stones’ for wildlife to go from one area to another.
“We are looking at conserving what we have and enhancing what can be enhanced. For each of the sites within the plan we are looking at ways they can be enhanced. It is simple things like controlling the scrub and cutting the vegetation maybe once a year and then maybe an awareness plan for the community.”
She said that Westport was blessed to have so much woodland in and around town and said the plan was user friendly and would not be left to sit on the shelf. Cllr Tereasa McGuire welcomed the plan and suggested that the Green School committees from all the schools be invited to the launch, describing them as the ‘best pollinators for the seed of change’.

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