The West of England Local Nature Recovery Strategy (LNRS) is currently being developed to coordinate efforts to restore nature across the region, as required by legislation. The West of England Combined Authority (WECA) has shared that the aim is to have this important strategy in place by spring 2024, and the team behind it are seeking to collaborate with a range of stakeholders.
Information about the West of England Local Nature Recovery Strategy can be found on the WECA website.
There is also a survey, as promoted by SPC and B&NES Council on social media, with an end date of 7 September 2023 to submit responses.
Saltford Parish Council had its response to the survey as an item at its September 2023 meeting, and welcomed the chance to respond by email.
For resident awareness, SPC’s response as submitted is as follows:
SPC RESPONSE TO WECA’s PROPOSALS FOR A WEST OF ENGLAND LOCAL NATURE RECOVERY STRATEGY (LNRS)
Saltford Parish Council (SPC) welcomes this opportunity to comment on the priorities and principles for a West of England Local Nature Recovery Strategy (LNRS) and supports in principle the 10 listed priorities. Below is our response resolved at the 5th September 2023 meeting of the full Parish Council.
SPC recognises that nature is collapsing at an alarming rate globally and nationally with potentially devastating effects on our ecosystems, and on the very basis on which life depends including the nation’s food security.
SECTION 1 (Actions for nature)
SPC would give the highest ranking to the following seven action for nature priorities listed in the consultation for the LNRS as these are of immediate concern :-
- Increasing the area of habitats;
- Improving the natural condition of existing habitats;
- Nature friendly farming;
- Improving water quality;
- Reducing pollution (chemical, pesticides, wastewater & plastics);
- Tackling invasive species;
- Reducing light pollution.
To protect the quality of life for residents and restore native species, those top priorities should be followed closely by these other three of the strategy’s ten priorities :-
- Improving access to nature, including nature reserves, green spaces and the countryside;
- Increasing green space and tree cover in cities and towns.
- Restoring species – should be a consequence of increased and improved habitat provision above.
SECTION 2 (Nature based solutions)
For the eight nature-based solutions listed in the consultation, although several solutions are of equal importance or closely linked, for the purposes of the survey, the Parish Council considers the solutions to be (closely) ranked as follows:-
- Food Security: Improving food security through pollinating crops, managing pests, improving the health of soils etc.;
- Water Quality: Filtering pollution to improve the quality of rivers and other waterbodies;
- Drought: Storing water to help reduce flooding and make more water available in times of drought;
- Staying Cool: Reducing heat in urban areas and providing shade;
- Air Quality: Improving air quality by filtering airborne pollutants;
- People: Improving people’s health and wellbeing through access to and engagement with nature;
- Climate Change: Storing carbon to help mitigate climate change;
- Economy: Boosting the economy through activities such as green tourism and recreational opportunities.
SECTION 3 (Potential priorities for nature’s recovery could be and areas that could become of particular importance for biodiversity and nature-based solutions)
SPC suggests the LNRS actively encourages and requires Local Planning Authorities in the West of England to identify and use the “Area of Great Landscape Value” (AGLV)* designation and/or the Local Green Space designation to publicly and permanently signal that specific areas are to be protected as potential priorities for nature from development or other harm as well as for providing open green space for local communities.
*The AGLV designation was established under the Town and Country Planning Act 1947 and has been used by LPAs to provide protection to locally valued landscapes from development that would be detrimental to those landscapes.
As two current examples, formal requests have been submitted to B&NES Council for such landscape designations by Saltford Parish Council (January 2023) and Keynsham Town Council (April 2023) as part of the new B&NES Local Plan (2022-2042). These could usefully be incorporated into the LNRS as part of its action and delivery plan as “potential priorities for nature’s recovery”.
In Saltford’s case, the area identified in SPC’s formal request of January 2023 for ‘Saltford South’ to receive Area of Great Landscape Value (AGLV) provides a great opportunity for protecting and enhancing nature. The long-standing woodlands, surrounding fields and hedgerows of ‘Saltford South’ provide habitat for a fascinating variety of wildlife that is essential for maintaining nature’s balance (some of this is detailed in SPC’s submission request). The permissive footpaths and Public Rights of Ways (PROWS) in ‘Saltford South’ enable regular and recreational access by residents to observe and experience nature. (Note: Click on this link to download SPC’s case paper and its annex.)
Furthermore, the River Avon through B&NES is an SNCI, a Site of Nature Conservation Interest. The LNRS should declare an objective for a safer cleaner River Avon throughout the West of England, affording greater protection from pollution and habitat destruction arising from inconsiderate and unsafe use by some river users, sewage system overflows during periods of heavy rainfall, and the river should be managed to allow natural habitat restoration/recovery.
There are other SNCIs in the West of England; these should be listed in the LNRS as priority protection areas.
SECTION 4 (the wildlife we wish to see/already enjoy seeing)
The wildlife (animals, plants and fungi) already seen and enjoyed in Saltford and the region includes a wide range of birdlife including those RED or AMBER listed as being of conservation concern. The river and riverbanks, trees of long-standing and ancient woodlands, and the wildlife corridor along the Bristol to Bath railway path, ancient hedgerows, dry-stone walls, grass verges and field margins, provide valuable habitat for a wide and diverse range of wildlife.
SECTION 5 (Using the Local Nature Recovery Strategy)
SPC would find an interactive online map very helpful.
SECTION 6 (document setting out the priorities for nature recovery in the West of England)
SPC would find a document setting out the priorities very helpful.
SECTION 7 (Communications: How likely would you be to use each of the formats listed from WECA as information sources)
The most likely formats SPC would use are :-
- email newsletter;
- downloadable pdf;
These other proposed options would be less likely to be used by SPC (although SPC recognises that they can still have a useful role for different audiences in disseminating information) :-
- Social media;
- YouTube videos.
SECTION 8 (Communications: Bringing nature to your locality – and how it might support better outcomes for people (e.g. mental and physical health)).
Same answer as for Section 7 except that Social media and YouTube videos would have greater roles here.
SECTION 9 (Additional comments etc.)
A joined-up approach across the West of England for supporting nature recovery would be welcome; protection of the West of England’s Green Belt is essential for achieving that objective. For example, some areas are best placed to provide space for nature’s recovery whilst others, e.g. brownfield areas or former retail sites near good public transport infrastructure, are better locations for new housing developments and/or for new open green public spaces for recreation. Furthermore, protecting and expanding existing species-rich grasslands and allowing existing woodland to regenerate and spread naturally provide better carbon sequestration, resilience, and wildlife outcomes than, for example, new tree planting schemes.
The construction of new housing developments in the West of England in recent years without new green recreational space (i.e., public parks, preferably with open water features such as rivers, large ponds or lakes) for the inhabitants of the new housing puts unsustainable pressure on the existing green spaces and wildlife nearby, especially during periods of hot weather at weekends and school/public holidays. New and existing residents in the West of England are deprived of access to local green spaces for relaxation and/or outdoor exercise. The LNRS provides an opportunity for the creation of large new areas of green recreational space to become a requirement for recent and future new housing developments.
Saltford Parish Council
5th September 2023