Local Government

"Local authorities provide the main framework within which environmental care is organised at local level and public attitudes to the environment cultivated."

Biodiversity – The UK Action Plan (1994)

FROM RIO TO RIBBLETON
From Rio to Ribchester - Brian Colliss, Mayor of Ribble Valley signs the Lancashire Biodiversity declaration affirming the support of Ribble Valley Borough Council for the Biodiversity Action process begun at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janiero in 1992.
Copyright: Pamela Hill

Target Group

The target audience is all local councillors and officers in relevant local government departments. The following functions of local government are seen as being particularly relevant in the conservation of biodiversity in the county:

  • Planning/Development control – Not only is it important to avoid negative impacts upon threatened species and habitats but also to seize opportunities provided by the planning process to enhance areas for biodiversity;

  • Countryside/landscape/open space management – Some authorities manage areas of land (e.g. Local Nature Reserves) specifically for environmental education and nature conservation. The amount of other green space that is managed by local councils is substantial. If best practice for biodiversity were to be adopted in the management of this resource it would make a huge contribution to biodiversity in the county. The sort of sites that may be local authority controlled or managed include (among others) allotments, country and urban parks, playing fields, school grounds, cemeteries and crematoria.

  • Highway maintenance and transport policy – Road verges have been identified in certain of the BAP plans as making a significant contribution to local biodiversity (e.g. for species-rich grasslands, twite). Sympathetic management of these verges will help deliver these action plans. Local transport policies should take into account impacts upon local biodiversity.

  • Museums/Libraries/Visitor Centres – There is huge potential to work with local authority-run facilities to publicise BAP initiatives;

  • Local Education Authority (LEA) functions – Working with LEA advisors, it will be possible to design materials and approaches that will integrate BAP educational initiatives with the National Curriculum and with existing environmental education programmes;

  • Youth and community services – Local community groups often take the lead in enhancing local areas;

  • LA21 and Community Strategy co-ordination – Local government has the primary responsibility for these sustainable development initiatives (See Section 9);

  • Environmental health – There is plenty of evidence of links between a healthy environment and human health. Biodiversity indicators can offer a way to gauge pollution (e.g. lichens and SO2 levels). Contact with nature can also help reduce stress levels and improve general levels of fitness. Healthy eating initiatives linked to chemical-free gardening and lower intensity farming can achieve benefits for biodiversity;

  • Economic development/tourism – The promotion of the local economy is an important function undertaken by some local authority departments. The economic advantages of a strong environmental sector and of landscapes rich in biodiversity are explored in Section 5;

  • Waste management – Reduction in the amounts of waste and pollution that society produces should benefit animal and plant communities.

Local authorities are a conduit through which local views and opinions can be expressed about, for example, the state of the local environment. They can also be a lead organisation mobilising local action on particular issues of concern. Increasingly, local government achieves many of its objectives through partnerships and networks involving other community organisations.

Facts and Figures

  • There are fifteen local authorities in Lancashire with land use planning functions. These are listed in Box 1. Those councils that act as Local Education Authorities are marked with an asterisk.

BOX 1: Local Authorities in Lancashire (See Map)

1 County Council:

Lancashire County Council*

2 Unitary Authorities:

Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council*

Blackpool Borough Council*

12 District Councils:

Burnley Borough Council

Chorley Borough Council

Fylde Borough Council

Hyndburn Borough Council

Lancaster City Council

Pendle Borough Council

Preston Borough Council

Ribble Valley Borough Council

Rossendale Borough Council

South Ribble Borough Council

West Lancashire District Council

Wyre Borough Council

* These Local Authorities act also as Local Education Authorities and as Highways Authorities.

  • In addition to the above there are 180 Parish and Town Councils in the county.
  • There are 18 Local Nature Reserves (LNRs), designated and managed by local authorities within the county. These are listed in Table 1 below:

Table 1: Local Nature Reserves in Lancashire

Name

Declaring Authority

Area (ha) or length (km)*

Year Declared

Cross Hill Quarry

Ribble Valley BC

9

1989

Deer Pond

Burnley BC

1.5

1997

Foxhill Bank

Hyndburn BC

9

1999

Healey Dell

Rossendale BC

40

1976 Ext 1979

Hic Bibi

Chorley BC

Lomeshaye Marsh

Pendle BC

Longton Brickcroft

South Ribble BC

10.5

1999

Lower House Lodges

Burnley BC

Lytham St Annes

Fylde BC

15

1968

Marton Mere

Blackpool BC

39.5

1991 Ext 1996

Preston Junction

Lancashire CC

4*

1993

Salthill Quarry

Ribble Valley BC

9

1989

Trowbarrow Quarry

Lancaster CC

14.5

1997

Warton Crag

Lancaster CC

19

1984

Warton Crag Quarry

Lancashire CC

7

1993

Withnell

Chorley BC

1*

1995

Withnell Fold

Lancashire CC

6

1991

Yarrow Lodge (part)

Chorley BC

Total No. of LNRs = 18

180 ha and 5km

Current Initiatives in Lancashire

  • Local Nature Reserves (LNRs): Local authorities can designate LNRs under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. The designation must be made in consultation with the statutory conservation agencies (in the case of Lancashire, English Nature), who advise on the suitability of the site. Many LNRs are close to centres of population and provide nature trails and interpretative facilities. Most LNRs are managed by the local authorities that designated them. However, they can be managed under contract by other bodies such as Wildlife Trusts or local user groups. In 1993, there were 337 LNRs in England covering about 14,000 ha.

  • Biological Heritage Sites (BHSs): BHSs are non-statutory wildlife sites identified by a partnership of Lancashire County Council, the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside as well as English Nature (North West Team). The BHS system has been set up to identify wildlife sites of county importance so that effort can be prioritised towards conserving the county’s critical environmental capital, primarily through the liaison work of the Biological Heritage Sites Project (BHSP). This project works mainly to raise awareness and provide advice to BHS owners/managers and to safeguard sites through development control and casework affecting BHSs.

  • Local Agenda 21 (LA21) & Community Strategies: These initiatives address sustainable development and quality of life issues. Local government is charged with taking the lead in developing both LA21 and Community Strategies. This area of work is addressed in Section 9 within the People Plan.

  • Association of Lancashire Environmental Co-ordinators (ALEC): This forum brings together many local government officers working in the fields of LA21 and other environmentally-focused areas to share experience of best practice.

  • Lancashire Association of Parish & Town Councils (LAPTC): This is the umbrella organisation for parish and town councils in the county. The LAPTC are represented on the BAP Steering Group in order to make sure that liaison is maintained between the activities of the BAP and the parish and town level of local democracy.

  • Lancashire Countryside Officers: Work closely with local communities to provide help, advice and assistance with a range of environmental issues.The Countryside Ranger Service through its work at Country Parks and Visitor Centres promote environmental issues. The Countryside Events Programme provides the opportunity to raise the profile of biodiversity issues to a wider public. The service is also involved in the publication of a range of information material including leaflets, interpretative displays and a website.

 

Possible Methods of Communication with Target Group

  • Training events, seminars and short courses – High quality training run by experts. This could include visits to council-maintained land to share best practice in terms of integrating biodiversity with landscape and amenity management.
  • World Wide Web – Links between the BAP website and the district/county based local authority websites could be established.
  • The ‘Biodiversity Roadshow’ – Developed by the North West Biodiversity Forum, this is a ‘Powerpoint’ presentation aimed at key decision-makers (such as councillors and senior staff) that is designed to explain the key issues behind the conservation of the region’s biodiversity. It can be tailored to highlight local biodiversity concerns.

 

Issues

Currently, only the County Council employs specialist in-house staff to advise on ecological issues as they affect the authority. Awareness of and knowledge about biodiversity issues varies from authority to authority and often between departments in the same authority. Probably the most useful service that the BAP project could provide to local authorities would be to indicate where good quality information may be obtained and where advice can be sought on a full range of conservation issues that might be encountered. The BAP already contains considerable amounts of information regarding key habitats and species in the county. This aspect of the BAP could be developed further so that the BAP website might become a resource indicating where sources of information could be found on topics such as, for example, ‘parks maintenance for biodiversity’. The partnership may also be well-placed to organise practical demonstrations and short courses for local authority staff on best practice in relation to ‘biodiversity’.

Increasingly, local authorities are being required to demonstrate that the services they provide are not only cost effective but also represent ‘best value’ when they are measured against other criteria such as sustainability. The conservation of biodiversity is a key element of sustainable development and, as such, should be regarded as an important indicator of council performance with regard to ‘best value’. If a local council’s actions lead to a significant decrease in local biodiversity, it could be argued that the authority is failing to provide ‘best value’.

 

Actions Proposed

Broad Objective:

A. Communicate the broad aims of the Lancashire BAP partnership to councillors and senior staff in local government in the county.

Operational Objective

Action Required (Priority)

Partners

Time-scale

Type

1. Through the medium of the 'Biodiversity Roadshow' offer briefings on the BAP to all local authority members and senior staff of county, district and unitary authorities

1. Organise briefings for all local authority members and senior staff of county, district and unitary authorities by 2003. (High)

NWB Forum, BAP P/ship, LAs

M

PR

2. Invite parish and town council members to special briefings based on the 'Biodiversity Roadshow'.

1. Organise at least five briefings aimed at parish and town council members by 2003 (High)

NWB Forum, BAP P/ship, LAPTC

M

PR

3. Ensure that all local authorities are circulated with the latest editions of 'Diversity' newsletter.

1. Send 'diversity to all local authorities. (High)

BAP P/ship

O

PR

2. Encourage local authorities to circulate 'Diversity' to all members and senior officers. (High)

BAP P/ship, LAs

 

Broad Objective:

B. Gain commitment from all tiers of local government in the county to the broad aims of the Lancashire BAP partnership.

Operational Objective

Action Required (Priority)

Partners

Time-scale

Type

1. Aim that by 2003 100% of county, district and unitary authorities and 50% of parish & town councils will have signed the Lancashire Biodiversity Declaration

1. Approach all local authorities that have not already done so to sign the Lancashire Biodiversity Declaration by 2003. (Medium)

BAP P/ship, LAs

S

PR

 

Broad Objective:

C. Offer training and/or information to assist local authorities to improve their practice with regard to local biodiversity.

Operational Objective

Action Required (Priority)

Partners

Time-scale

Type

1. Identify training and information needs of staff and members about biodiversity issues. (High)

1. Discuss training and information needs with existing BAP partners and organisations such as ALEC and LATPC. (Medium)

BAP PWG, ALEC, LATPC, LAs

S

RM

2. Draw up proposals for fulfilling needs within a medium term timescale. (Medium)

BAP PWG

S

P

2. Organise appropriate workshops, events and/or materials to fulfil needs identified from C.1.2.

1. Seek resources to implement programme resulting from C.1.2. (Medium)

BAP P/ship

M

PR

 

2. Deliver programme from 2002 onwards (Medium).

BAP P/ship, LAs

M

PR

Date: April 2001.

 

 

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