Report by Lead Officer Planning Policy (attached). NOTE: Mike Moser, Chair of the Biosphere Reserve’s Nature Improvement Group has been invited to attend to introduce the report.
The Committee considered a report by the Lead Officer Planning Policy (circulated previously) regarding the Biosphere Natural Recovery Plan and Declaration.
Mike Moser, Chair of the Biosphere Reserve’s Nature Improvement Group addressed the Committee. He advised the Committee of the following:
· Outlined his background in nature conservation in the UK and developing countries.
· The next 10 years were crucial. Both nationally and within northern Devon, the wildlife was a shadow of its former glory. Many species were in long term decline and we had lost many important and keystone species. The UK was among the most nature depleted countries in the world.
· Both the rivers Taw and Torridge were failing ecological and chemical standards, revealing that land use and activities in their catchment were not sustainable.
· Climate change was exacerbating the current problems affecting wildlife and their habitats.
· There was an opportunity to support and facilitate nature’s recovery. One of the Biosphere Reserve’s purposes was to be able to test innovative approaches for living sustainably as an exemplar for sustainable development. As such, a Nature Recovery Plan had been prepared by the Nature Improvement Group of the Biosphere Reserve Partnership as its response to the global ecological emergency.
· Over the past 6 months, 40 officers from across the organisations within the Biosphere Partnership had worked on producing the Plan and the 5 action plans covering the key habitats in the Biosphere. He explained the key actions within the action plans and how they would be delivered. Communications and working in partnership would be key to delivering the priorities.
· The Council’s work on the Local Plan was the “front end” of delivering improvements that were required.
· A Nature Recovery Declaration had also been prepared seeking all community groups, businesses and individuals to sign up to actions within their control and responsibility that would contribute towards achieving this vision. There had been a “soft launch” of the declaration 2 weeks ago and there had already been 300 signatories pledging their support.
The Lead Officer Planning Policy outlined the following to the Committee:
· The Recovery Plan would help nature to recover in partnership with other organisations.
· The Plan detailed priority actions required from 2021-25 to move towards a 2030 Vision for nature’s recovery across northern Devon. The actions were challenging but considered to be achievable by the lead organisations. The actions and progress against them would be reviewed in 2025.
· The majority of priority actions assigned to the Council for delivery were either in progress or it was already planned for the future, therefore there was no requirement for additional resources.
· The draft Nature Recovery Plan was published on 6 July and was subject to public consultation until 15 August 2021.
In response to questions, Mike Moser, Chair of the Biosphere Reserve’s Nature Improvement Group advised the following:
· The Biosphere Reserve’s Nature Improvement Group was already working with the Exmoor National Park Authority. The National Park had committed to peatland restoration and had an important role within the Plan.
Councillor Yabsley declared a personal interest as a Devon County Council Member of the Biosphere Reserve Partnership and also as a farmer.
The Committee requested that the Group also consider areas of scrubland within the Plan as there was a need to protect these areas as many connected to the hedgerows and the Sustainable Farm Initiative.
(a) the Lead Officer Planning Policy be authorised to respond to the draft Nature Recovery Plan by supporting the proposed vision and actions within it;
(b) the Council sign the Nature Recovery Declaration, agreeing to undertake each of the actions identified for Councils;
(c) all members and staff be encouraged and invited to pledge their support for this Declaration as individuals, and to share it with their family and friends where appropriate.