Yesterday, council bosses admitted they have once again massacred one of the last remaining habitats of the narrow-leaved helleborine - a highly distinctive white wild flower.Yes, for the third year running…
The orchids are officially classed as one of the world's most 'vulnerable' flowers - meaning they are at high risk of extinction in the wild.Well, not so much in the wild as in the perimeter of council influence…
For more than 50 years, the orchids have grown on a road verge at Mascoombe Bottom in the Meon Valley, Hampshire. The open conditions and south-facing slope make it ideal for the plants, which flower between May and July.Ah, well, you have to see it from the council’s point of view: complaints are bad, but, y’know, no-one’s going to lose any sleep over them. They are bits of paper. They don’t materially affect pensions or careers….
But three years ago Hampshire County Council changed its roadside mowing routine and cut down the flowers before they could set seed - putting the population at risk.
The charity Plantlife contacted the council and was given a guarantee the mistake would not happen again.
But the error was repeated last year and this year by the council's contractors, despite more complaints.
The council was unable to say how the mistake occurred.I’ll tell you, shall I?
It happened because there were no consequences to it happening.
But councillor Mel Kendal, executive member for environment, said he 'will be ensuring the council's procedure is changed so that all the designated verges of ecological importance, among the 4,000 miles of rural verges we cut, are individually assessed to protect rare species of plantlife.'Well, unless you change that procedure to allow for the ritual disembowelment of the parks manager on the village green in the event of this happening, expect more of it.
Alternatively, you could just ensure that a particularly large fine will come directly out of his salary? That’ll do the trick…