Councillors asked to agree new approach to green spaces and biodiversity in Aberdeenshire

Following a number of gradual changes to open space management over the past three to four years, a new approach for the creation and maintenance of green spaces across Aberdeenshire is being proposed to increase biodiversity and the types of recreation spaces available for residents. 

Council officers have proposed the approach in order to continue to improve the local environment against a background of budget pressures, recognising its importance to local communities.

Members of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee will next week (Thu, Aug 23) be asked to approve a business case for a project which will develop the proposed new approach.

They will hear it is likely to lead to a reduction in well maintained grassy areas often known as “green deserts”, while increasing more natural spaces, with increased tree planting, woodland areas, pollinator friendly plants and wildflower meadows.

The intention is to concentrate limited resources on high priority areas which are well used, increase biodiversity and ensure a variety of open spaces of good quality for multiple purposes.

Given the substantial change in approach this represents, officers are aware of the essential need to engage with communities to help identify suitable areas and communicate the potential benefits to this approach.

If councillors agree, a bid will be made for European funding to allow two officers to be employed to take the initiative forward and engage and consult with communities across Aberdeenshire over 18 months.

They would seek to identify opportunities for enhancement and development of local green spaces, developing an integrated approach to open space management in key areas.

They would also aim to help communities appreciate the benefits of biodiverse open spaces and understand the importance of trees and pollinators and their natural environment.

Where areas are identified for reduced or alternative maintenance, this will also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the equipment used and its transportation. More trees, woodlands and wildflower meadows will also absorb more CO2 from the atmosphere.

The intention is this will be a model which provides a cost effective and efficient method to deliver enhancements to green spaces and improve biodiversity.

“Some people might see this as a reduction in service, but it’s intended to make the best use of limited resources, focusing on maintaining well used areas, while creating a higher quality natural environment in other locations which is more welcoming to nature and promoting overall habitat improvement,” said Head of Roads, Landscape and Waste Services, Philip McKay.

“It is a significant change in approach, but we have to look at ways of doing things differently to continue to provide the quality of services our residents are used to.

“The project to develop the approach would be completely externally funded, with no impact on council resources, but in the longer term it would mean we can make the most of the resources we do have.

“While the proposal is to reduce or amend the level of maintenance of substantial areas of green space right across Aberdeenshire, this represents significant potential environmental benefits, increasing tree planting and the creation of wildflower meadows.”

Infrastructure Services Director, Stephen Archer, said: “Part of the plan is to work with communities, schools and other partners to create new areas of wildflower grassland, scrub and native woodland to support biodiversity, pollinators and community food growing, as well as identifying habitats that support biodiversity and pollinators, protecting and preventing further loss or deterioration of these.

“We hope if councillors agree to the proposals that this could become a model for other local authorities looking to enhance green spaces while facing financial pressures.”