Moo-ve over concrete cows, the age of the hedgehog is coming to Milton Keynes

A motion to speed up council action on protecting nature – and hedgehogs in particular – looks set to foster a degree of harmony among politicians in Milton Keynes.

Tuesday, 15th October 2019, 5:37 pm
A hedgehog

The Conservative group have lodged a motion to the full council meeting next Wednesday (October 23) that, despite some spiky misgivings on possible motives, has a degree of cross-party support.

Conservative environment spokesperson Cllr Dan Gilbert will be proposing that the council should speed up the development of a new strategy to transform Milton Keynes into a “haven for hedgehogs, pollinating insects, and other wildlife.”

Cllr Gilbert (Loughton & Shenley) said: “Imagine if MK were as famous for hedgehog highways and pollinating bees as grid roads and concrete cows – and think what we could achieve if this was hard-wired into planning decisions.”

Hedgehog highways are routes through the human world that are protected for the nocturnal animals to use. The Tories want to see a network of hedgehog highways across the city, which they see as becoming a haven for the little critters.

Cllr Gilbert continued: “We are blessed with so much natural beauty across our borough, and now is the time for us to come together and make a clear pledge to protect it for future generations.

“I hope all sides can back this plan, because by working with partners across the city we could really make a difference to local wildlife and the planet.”

But Labour’s cabinet member for hedgehogs, and other forms of wildlife, reckoned the Tories were jumping on a green bandwagon before it picks up speed.

Cllr Emily Darlington (Bletchley East), who has responsibility for the the “public realm” said: “There is a paper due to go to the Cabinet on November 5, the Tories have been briefed on it, and I think they are trying to get in there first.

“It is nice to see the Tories are getting on board and I will give them the benefit of the doubt.”

Cllr Darlington said the strategy being worked out will think about how the council can encourage nature in the city, including wild-flowers and “bees, bugs, and butterflies.”

She said as well as being good for nature, looking after the natural world, including trees, was good for human mental health.

The council already has a strategy for protecting nature in its planning bible, Plan:MK, but this is all about taking it much further.

When asked if the strategy would give the council an excuse not to cut the grass, Cllr Darlington said: “It actually takes much more thought about wild-flowers and biodiversity. Just cutting the grass is the easy option.”

The motion has also been tentatively welcomed by the Lib Dems.

Cllr Vanessa McPake (Monkston) said: “There doesn’t seem to be anything in there that we would object to. It’s interesting that the motion also welcomes charges for plastic carrier bags, which was originally a national Liberal Democrat initiative.”

If councillors agree the motion it will mean they will be updated regularly on progress.