Earlier last month I was approached to submit a short piece about what my ‘vision for Beeston’ might be. Beeston is my local town, and I am a member of the Beeston and District Civic Society committee for all things environment and nature. My submission is here: cpwalker.co.uk/pages/tamar-feast but I also thought I’d include it on my journal.
“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”
When I think of a vision for Beeston, the picture that makes me most hopeful and happy is one which more literally reflects the inspirational attitude and bravery required to take our town’s name and really run with it.
While I know that the name ‘Beeston’ stems not from being a ‘town of bees’ but a ‘town of grass’ – I also know that Beeston is a town of bees. We have many apiculturists (‘beekeepers’ to you and me), only one of which is made of concrete. We now, too, have a beautiful, impactful mural to illustrate our association with this industrious, busy species – a third of which are in serious decline. Owing to chronic reductions in the richness of nature; habitat loss, and the use – since 2007 – of systemic pesticides such as the neonicotinoid ‘Roundup’, current trends continuing signal that some of our British bee species would be gone forever.
Therefore, I suggest it’s about time we put our money where our mouth is and genuinely, seriously innovate to create a pride of place which, rather than as some afterthought or half-baked ploy, has at its heart the natural world we live, work and play in.
We should be investing more time, money and effort to ensure policies which promote, protect and encourage wildlife in our town environment are integral to every aspect of our decision making, development and planning. It is one thing to have a Town Plan which pays lip service to the theory of these activities – but it would be quite something else to see it; feel it, tangible in everything around us.
Let’s have green roofs or roof gardens on all new larger developments (Beeston Cinema, I’m looking at you…). They do not add much more to a development budget, and do not require high maintenance. Anyone who says they do is having you on.
Let’s have mandatory bat bricks and swift boxes/roosts in all new house builds, and retrofit them in old homes where or near where nesting sites exist. There are many of these sites in Beeston. I know, because I live in one. Swift numbers are in steep decline – in no small part because people are fitting uPVC cladding and fascias to their homes or buy-to-lets; denying nest sites to Swifts returning from Africa to little ol’ Beeston, and not providing alternatives. I have personally noticed numbers reduced by more than half in the last few years.
We have so much development and regeneration here at the moment, and planned in the near future – Myford’s place and the Belong village, Beeston Square and Cinema, Beeston Business park, and Barton’s… to name a few. Ample opportunities to make a real, significant difference; to go over and above regular expectations.
Let’s create and change our local public spaces and parks to also reflect the spaces they are for wildlife, too. Beeston is not just ours – animals, birds and invertebrates existed here already; they’re residents too. We need landscaping to include habitats; to be planted for pollinators and year-round interest – not just on-the-cheap, with monocultures of low-maintenance shrubs and grass. And while we’re on about grass, let’s not cut it. If we’re a ‘town of grass’, let’s make it meadow grass – full of life and colour and buzz during the hazy months of summer.
Beeston could, and should, be an innovator about this. We’ve already raised the bar on becoming Climate Neutral, by setting 2027 as our target when others are going for 2030 or even 2050 – and this is really commendable. But anyone can set a target. My 2020Vision of Beeston would involve us building on these strengths by raising the bar further; I wish we would that we grab that bar and fling it.
So, whether it is a ‘town of bees’ or a ‘town of grass’ – let’s really be a town of bees; a town of grass.
“WHAT DO WE WANT?!” “Nomenative determinism!”
“WHEN DO WE WANT IT?!” “Preferably twenty years ago, but now is fine…”