Environmentalists and conservationists from across Kent have been discussing ways to protect bees alongside the county’s roads, railways and rivers at a special summit organised by Kent County Council.
More than a third of bees in Kent died last year because of the long winter, late spring and bad weather, according to the British Beekeepers’ Association.
The latest summit concentrated on protecting bees and their habitats alongside Kent’s ‘linear’ features – roads, rivers, railways and footpaths.
A massive part of Kent’s £400m rural economy is horticulture, with products pollinated by bees. The loss of so many bees will have a direct impact on food supplies and costs to the county’s farmers.
The National Audit Office estimates that the retail value of plants that bees pollinate is £1bn and that each hive is worth £400 to the economy.
KCC Deputy Cabinet Member for Economic Development Sean Holden organised the summit at Oakwood House in Maidstone. He said “The County Council sits among networks of people and the idea behind this latest summit is to bring together these groups to try to find answers to the bee population crisis.
“We need to mobilise the people of Kent to create better habitats and more forage for bees in whatever ways they can. The government has just produced a National Pollinator Strategy to look at how we engage our communities and this will not only help protect bees but also improve our environment.”
Victoria Greensted, an environmental specialist from Network Rail (High Speed) Ltd was among the delegates.
She said “We believe the route of the railway is a fantastic green corridor and it’s important for all sorts of wildlife – not just bees. Part of the planning requirement for HS1 was that we would work towards providing 40 hectares of wild flowers. We also have several Kent beekeepers who have positioned their hives along the route to take advantage of the wild flowers and the surrounding farmland.”
James Ennis from Network Rail says similar efforts are also being made along the route of all railways in the county.
“Network Rail has to find ways to achieve a balance between running the railway safely and reliably but we also have a duty to maintain the land alongside the track and ensure that we maintain habitats for bees and other species. We are always looking at how we work environmentally and ecologically and this is a great chance to discuss this with others.”
Howard Porter from the Tonbridge and Malling branch of Friends of the Earth also spoke at the summit.
“All land is important and how it’s managed, because creatures depend on it and we in turn depend on them,” said Howard. “How we manage habitat alongside roads, railways and rivers and encourage new habitats is incredibly important. The linear elements that we are talking about today provide vital corridors for wildlife and enable them to move around – just like we do.”
KCC plans to hold more summits in the future and it’s hoped these will include parish councils, schools, businesses and leisure organisations and mobilise the people of Kent to help rescue the future of these vital insects.