Councillor Peter Garbutt presented the motion in a full council meeting yesterday and said the UK is amongst the most nature depleted countries in the world, with the World Wildlife Fund ranking it 12th from the bottom out of 200 countries.
Mammals, invertebrates, fish and birds are all suffering as their various habitats are under pressure from things including farming practices, litter, recreational use like fox hunting, golf and grouse shooting, the planning system and humans’ obsession with neatness that brings poisons like glyphosate onto streets and mowers.
Coun Garbutt said: “But here we are in Sheffield the Outdoor City. How can we promote our city in this way whilst ignoring the harms our outdoors is suffering? Do we want our fellow Sheffielders to continue choking on poor air quality? Do we want our visitors to be disgusted at the level of litter and overzealous annihilation of our outdoor greenery? How much of our outdoors can we eradicate before the name the Outdoor City becomes an out and out lie?
“To stop this happening, to reverse the decline we must first recognise the problem. This declaration is that first step and I commend it to you.”
The motion included commitments to connect initiatives and unify the council’s approach to biodiversity through its new action plan; develop the plan with input from all council departments and provide opportunity for partner organisations, businesses and community stakeholders to have input; develop robust policies in the local plan to help protect and enhance biodiversity; and provide training for all elected members and staff on biodiversity net gain.
Along with the full motion, there were a number of additions including from the Liberal Democrats who added paragraphs to ensure bottom up input such as allowing residents to take over management of grass verges and for local area committees to allocate funding for nature projects.