Help preserve the riverbank at Pettinger Gardens

Pettinger Gardens in 2004The reeds and natural riverbank foliage at Pettinger Gardens need protection from strimming, writes Stephanie Brown.

First of all, a big thank you to the 75 plus local residents of Pettinger Gardens, the houseboats, Cobden Marine Court, Riverdene Place and Tides Reach, who signed the petition opposing the strimming of reeds and natural river bank foliage adjacent to the Southampton City Council owned land at Pettinger Gardens. However, the Council is not taking your views into consideration regarding this issue.


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When I moved to Pettinger Gardens in early 2004, the riverbank looked like this:

Pettinger Gardens 2004

The Council periodically cut the grass, as is apparent in this photo, but have never cut the reeds or riverbank foliage at all. Some local residents however had an agenda to cut down the reeds and the foliage because they felt it spoilt their view. At first this was done manually by them but they then procured an industrial petrol strimmer.

After two years of the riverbank being strimmed from one end to another with this strimmer, it now looks like this:

Pettinger Gardens 2006

Why the riverbank should be preserved
In this time, I have noticed a significant decrease in the duckling population in this area. This is due to their natural environment being destroyed. They have no protection from predators such as crows and seagulls. Also their natural food supply has been disrupted, due to the natural environment of the insect life being taken away.

I am also concerned that the natural protection for the structure of the riverbank has been compromised, thus exacerbating the effects of erosion from tides, wash from river craft, wind and rain.


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The current situation
I contacted the Environment Agency to raise my concerns, as well as writing to Councillor Jill Baston who holds the Local Government portfolio for the environment. The Environment Agency responded with a letter to the Council advising them how important this area is from an ecological and environmental perspective. They also reminded the Council that they both had a duty to deliver the Biodiversity Action Plan and also to protect the riverbank.

Despite this and being presented with a large petition from residents of the wider area, the Open Spaces team of Southampton City Council want to allow the foliage cutting to continue, albeit in a reduced way. They have proposed that the reeds at either end of the grassed area should be left to grow naturally and the area in between can be strimmed. They have not however put forward any plans as to who will mange this process and how it will be governed. I suspect it will be left to the devices of the 'cutters' to regulate their own activities.

Questions to consider

  • Who will manage this activity, if as the Council claim, they are responsible for the riverbank alongside this piece of land?
  • How will the proposed cutting activities be monitored?
  • Why are the Council so keen to divert so much time and resource into appeasing a minority of residents? Why does this take precedence over the wildlife and ecology of this unique area?
  • Why is the natural management of this foliage so unacceptable? The reeds and other foliage only grow to a significant height from the late summer until winter. They then die away again — this is less than four months per year.

 What can you do?

  • Write to Councillors Vinson and Baston at Southampton City Council, to let them know that this situation is unacceptable
  • Contact you local Member of Parliament to ask why the Council are allowed to disregard the local ecology and to let them know that we care about the bigger picture.

 Stephanie Brown

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