Agenda item

North Devon Biosphere Reserve.

Presentation by Andrew Bell, UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve Co-ordinator regarding the work of the North Devon Biosphere and how North Devon Council can be involved via policy development and partnership working.


The following reports by the Climate Officer from the meeting of the Strategy and Resources Committee held on the 6th June 2022 are attached for information:


a)    North Devon Carbon, Environment and Biodiversity Plan (attached).


b)    North Devon Council Carbon Footprint (attached).


The Committee received a presentation from Andrew Bell, UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve Co-ordinator regarding the work of the North Devon Biosphere.


The Chair welcomed Mr Bell to the Committee and thanked him for his hard work in the delivery of the North Devon Biosphere.


Mr Bell outlined the work of the North Devon Biosphere to the Committee:


·       The impact of the Yelland Planning Inquiry and the disappointment that it was approved following appeal together with the objections that the biosphere had made due to the landscape impact.

·       How the biosphere had worked with the developers to try and mitigate the issues and concerns together with the impact on biodiversity.

·       The public perspective of the biosphere as a result of the final decision being approved.

·       Ways in which to achieve biodiversity net gain once the site has been redeveloped.

·       The North Devon Biosphere had released a statement outlining their position regarding the Yelland application.

·       Rising sea levels, which would bring changes to the landscape and surrounding areas were displayed via typographical visual modelling, which depicted the current situation and projected levels for 100 years into the future.

·       The various scenarios, which were:


Ø  1 m RSL (rate of change as in IPCC).

Ø  Protect all dry land for next 100 years.

Ø  No not protect land other than developed land.

Ø  Protect nothing.


·       2100 protect developed land.

·       2100 no dyke scenario.

·       Protect all dry land.

·       Protect developed land 2075 (Ha change).

·       Protect developed land 2100 (Ha change).

·       The North Devon Biosphere was looking at ways to change land cover up to 2100. There was a balance to address to maintain certain amount of salt marsh for flood protection together with a requirement to replace fresh water marsh.

·       There was a nominated case worker working closely with farmers and landowners to address water quality and estuary erosion.

·       CRITTER project:


Ø  A six year project working with landowners and land managers to improve water quality, reduce flood risk, increase the health of local soils, create areas of new saltmarsh, all supported through a simple small grant scheme process.

Ø  Funding agreement adopted on an annual basis.

Ø  The Environment Agency budget was reduced in the early months of 2022. So, the project was largely funded by carbon credits, which were capped at £100k and the project required funding of £750K over the next few years.


·       Devon Woods project:


Ø  The Devon Woods Project uses nature-based solutions to improve water quality throughout Devon. Extending across the whole of Devon from the highlands of Dartmoor, down the river valleys and beyond, the project aimed to improve water quality, flood management and biodiversity within the catchments of the rivers: Tamar, Torridge, Taw, Teign, Exe and Otter.  

Ø  Pair planting in bands a long rivers to capture sediment and improve water quality.

Ø  Grant funded project.


·       Woods for Water project:


Ø  There are many catchments within Devon and Cornwall where water quality and flood risk was impacted by land management (River Basin Management Plan). Research and development demonstrated that woodland planting was cost beneficial and could form an important pollution and flood reduction measure if targeted appropriately. 

Ø  Innovational project focussing on flood and coastal resilience and funded by the Water Environment Investment Fund (WEIF).

Ø  Working closely with South West Water to address the water quality measures.

Ø  The project had already seen success in Combe Martin where the water quality had improved.

Ø  Sensors placed within the soil to monitor moisture content.

Ø  Working with Exeter University to develop an algorithm to trigger a flood defence warning, which provided free software worth £500K for the next three years.


·       HM Government’s Community Renewal Fund (CRF):


Ø  North Devon UNESCO Biosphere has won £1.3m from the HM Government’s Community Renewal Fund (CRF).

Ø  The project would promote green growth and investment in the area whilst raising well-being for local communities through nature based solutions. 

Ø  The project would focus on the following areas:


                                            i.         Marine management.

                                           ii.         Fisheries conservation.

                                         iii.         Aqua culture/blue carbon storage within the seabed.


·       Working with Plymouth Marine Laboratories exploring nature based solutions for climate change.

·       Looking at where carbon was stored and held within kelp as an increase in water temperature halted its reproduction.

·       Assessing Woodland supply chain and developing intelligence.

·       Developing wellbeing skills through collaboration with the NHS and local GP surgeries to encourage nature prescriptions and get the population out in nature and remain active.


·       Nature Improvement Plan:


Ø  Working with farmers to increase their biodiversity net gain, which was a profitable way of farming and providing habitats for wildlife, although there was a land tie in requirement of 30 years.

Ø  Concern had been raised by farmers regarding the 30 year land tie in requirement.

Ø  There were currently 72 farms on the market place who were interested in exploring biodiversity net gain.

Ø  British Airways were planting trees to offset their carbon footprint. However, they should first be exploring changes to their practices and operations before taking offsetting measures.


·       White Cross Offshore Windfarm, which would deliver eight turbines 50km off shore.


Ø  Concerns had been raised in relation to the cable infrastructure that would be required as it was proposed to pass through the dunes at Braunton Burrows.


·       The Biosphere was in regular contact with the Exmoor National Park Authority re. marsh management and there was a fair amount of work still required in that area.


Following the presentation the Committee discussed the following:


·       The Committee felt that they were now in a position to understand the stance taken by the North Devon Biosphere and explain this to their constituents regarding the Yelland Planning inquiry.

·       The potential cable depth in relation to the shifting sands of the dune system.

·       The type of voltage being proposed and the preference of DC rather than AC voltage.

·       Leaky damns in Braunton and the campaign to introduce beavers to the area.

·       The launch of the North Devon Explorer app, which was due to be launched on Friday 15th July 2022 to provide tourists with ideas for activities within the area that link to the local environment.


The Committee thanked Mr Bell for his attendance at the meeting.

Supporting documents: