From Global to Local

2. The Lancashire Biodiversity Action Plan

The UK Steering Group produced guidance (5) to locally based organisations to encourage the production of local plans. This guidance has informed the production of Lancashire’s ‘Local Biodiversity Action Plan’ (LBAP) that you are reading.

The UK Steering Group emphasised the importance early in the LBAP process of forming partnerships of interested parties and of assessing the biodiversity resource within an area.

2.1 How do we assess Lancashire's Wildlife Resource?
2.2 What is the Lancashire Biodiversity Partnership?
2.3 What will the Plan be used for and who will use it?
2.4 How was the plan produced?
2.5 How was it decided which HAPs and SAPs should be written?
2.6 How were the HAPs and SAPs written?
2.7 What is the People Plan?

2.1 Assessing the Wildlife Resource

A number of agencies in North West of England responded to the challenge set by the UK Steering Group to produce LBAPs for locally important habitats and species. In November 1996 key organisations met at a conference in Preston, Lancashire and decided that there should be an Audit that identified habitats and species of conservation importance at a regional level. The Audit would then inform the production of Local Biodiversity Action Plans and provide a basis for targeting the allocation of resources, as well as for strategic regional planning and economic initiatives.

Following the conference, the Regional Biodiversity Steering Group (RBSG) was established with representatives from a wide range of public, private and voluntary sector organisations.

The RBSG commissioned an Audit of North West England to identify its significant habitats and species, and to provide a regional context for the many organisations involved to take full account of conservation needs and to establish their priorities for biodiversity conservation. 'Wild About the North West: A Biodiversity Audit of North West England' (6) was published in January 1999.

Biodiversity poster Poster map

The RBSG has evolved into the North West Biodiversity Forum, a grouping that continues to oversee and co-ordinate biodiversity initiatives within the region.

2.2 The Lancashire Biodiversity Partnership

The Audit initiative opened the door to the production of Lancashire's own plan. It prompted a conference in May 1998 that discussed the creation of a Lancashire Biodiversity Action Plan. Over 100 participants came together representing local authority, Government agencies, industry, landowners, farmers and the voluntary sector. A list of participants is included in Appendix 1.

The conference participants agreed that an LBAP should be prepared for the area within the present local government boundaries of the county of Lancashire, and the unitary authorities of Blackburn with Darwen and Blackpool Boroughs. As an expression of the commitment to the LBAP process the ‘Lancashire Biodiversity Declaration’ was launched at the conference (see Box 2)

Box 2: The Lancashire Biodiversity Action Declaration

"Lancashire contains some of the nation's finest landscapes and outstanding habitats for wildlife, particularly within the county's extensive upland areas, estuaries and wetlands. Moreover, places of value for wildlife, and for people's enjoyment of nature, are found widely throughout the urban and rural areas of our county. However, in spite of efforts by government bodies, local authorities, non-governmental organisations and individuals, these and other habitats are under threat from loss, fragmentation and deterioration of environmental quality. The same is true for many wild plants and animals which depend on these habitats.

This process of decline can be reversed only by co-ordinated and collaborative efforts, based on a common understanding of the problems, needs and priorities at the local, regional, national and international scales. Only by working together can local communities, businesses, landowners, farmers, central and local government, and the voluntary sector achieve this change of direction. National guidance recommends the production of local Biodiversity Action Plans as a mechanism whereby this might be achieved. It is therefore proposed that a Biodiversity Action Plan for Lancashire be prepared as a collaborative initiative."

So far, over 50 separate Lancastrian organisations have signed the Declaration. A full list of those that have signed is contained within the Appendix 2. Organisations and individuals that would like to join the Partnership by signing the Declaration, can find a form also in the Appendix 2.

The conference recommended that a Steering Group should be set up and resources identified to establish a Plan co-ordinator’s post. The Steering Group was established to reflect the broad interests in the Plan and its implementation and its present membership can be seen in the Appendix 3. It was decided that contact should be maintained with the rest of the partnership process via a newsletter "Diversity". Partners would be kept informed of progress and encouraged to input into LBAP process through the newsletter and through further conferences and workshops.

An application to fund a Project Officer for two years was approved by the Lancashire Environmental Fund (see Box 3) in October 1998 with matched funding from Lancashire County Council and the Environment Agency. The two year project culminated in the production of this ‘Biodiversity Action Plan for Lancashire’.

BOX 3: LWS Lancashire Environmental Fund

The Fund is a not for profit company established in 1998 from a partnership of four organisations; Lancashire Waste Services, Lancashire County Council, Lancashire Wildlife Trust and the Community Council of Lancashire.

The funds enable community groups and organisations throughout the County to take advantage of the funding opportunities offered by landfill tax credits.

2.3 What will the Plan be used for and who will use it?

The Plan has been written to focus resources to conserve and enhance biodiversity by means of local partnerships, taking account of both national, regional and Lancashire priorities. The Plan aims to fulfil a number of functions:

  • To ensure those national targets for habitats and species, as specified in the UK Action Plan, are translated into effective action at the local level using the Natural Areas framework (see 'Lancashire's Wildlife Riches').
  • To identify targets for species and habitats appropriate to the local area, and reflecting the values of people locally.
  • To develop effective local partnerships to ensure that programmes for biodiversity conservation are maintained in the long-term.
  • To raise the awareness of the need for biodiversity conservation in Lancashire.
  • To ensure that opportunities for conservation and enhancement of the whole biodiversity resource are fully considered.
  • To provide the basis for monitoring progress in biodiversity conservation, at both local and national level.

We hope that the users and uses of the Lancashire Biodiversity Action Plan will be many and varied. There are a number of groups who are vital to the implementation of the plan including land managers, farmers, local authorities, government agencies, educational establishments, the voluntary sector and of course individuals. A ‘People Plan’ integrated within the BAP, explores the possible involvement of a range of user groups and suggests the types of actions they may undertake.

2.4 How was the plan produced?

The first challenge was to decide what should be included within the Plan. National guidance sets some common standards for what should be included in an LBAP. Among the most important elements suggested are individual plans for particular species and habitats of special concern in the plan area. These plans are known respectively as ‘Habitat Action Plans’ (or ‘HAPs’) and ‘Species Action Plans’ (‘SAPs’). These HAPs and SAPs include targets for maintaining, restoring and re-establishing habitats and species throughout the plan area.

2.5 How was it decided which HAPs and SAPs should be written?

The Lancashire Biodiversity Steering Group established a 'Technical Working Group' to provide scientific input and support to Lancashire BAP process. The membership of this Working Group is given in Appendix 3. The Working Group’s first task was to draw up a list for Steering Group approval of those HAPs and SAPs that should be included in the first tranche of plans to be produced for Lancashire.

The Working Group adapted the national guidance to derive a set of criteria to select HAP and SAP candidates. These criteria were then applied to the data collected in the North West Biodiversity Audit. This resulted in a list of 29 species and 10 habitats that was approved by the Steering Group. A more detailed explanation of the process of HAP and SAP selection is contained in Appendix 4 but a brief summary is provided in Box 4 below.

BOX 4: Evaluation Criteria

Having established an organisational structure to work within, the next key question to be answered was what habitats and species should we develop plans on? In line with UK Biodiversity Groups guidance, we used the following criteria for selection of habitats and species:

  • UK priority species (short or middle lists), in particular those most characteristic of the area.
  • Significance of local resource in nation context - e.g. is a species unique to the area or does the area have a high proportion of the national population of the species?
  • Local opportunity available to contribute towards national targets
  • Local decline rates - declines and increases assessed where possible over the last 25 years
  • Local rarity - species occurrence in the Biodiversity Action Plan area
  • Local threat - e.g. lack of management, recreation, pollution, development
  • Local distinctiveness - high profile or popular species or species particularly associated with an area.

Suggested habitat evaluation criteria:

  • UK priority habitats, in particular those most characteristic of the area
  • Significance of local resource in national context e.g. is a habitat confined to the area or does the area have a high proportion of the national resource?
  • Opportunity available to enhance the local resource
  • Local decline rates
  • Local rarity
  • Local threats to the habitat
  • Degree of habitat fragmentation/fragment viability
  • Importance of habitat for key species
  • Local distinctiveness - habitats used to raise the profile of Local Biodiversity Action Plan work within the plan area.

The Regional Biodiversity Audit was invaluable for the selection of UK priority habitats and species that occurred in Lancashire. The list was then further amended through discussion with local experts and groups to add, for instance, species with particular local threats or with a considerable contribution to local distinctiveness.

Tree Sparrow It was decided that a manageable number of 10 habitat plans and 29 species plans should be produced and published within two years. The first list should not necessarily indicate that the habitats and species chosen are of greater importance for action than plans produced at a later date, but are indicative of the range of habitats and species to be found in the County. Further plans will be produced over the coming months and these will be added to the Lancashire BAP website as they are approved by the Steering Group. For a list of habitats and species for future plans, see Appendix 5.
Tree Sparrow (A map of Tree Sparrow distribution shows that this species is concentrated in the Plains and Valleys Natural Area)
Copyright: RSPB

2.6 How were the HAPs and SAPs written?

The UK Biodiversity Group has provided guidance on the format for HAPs and SAPs and explains the importance of:

  • setting realistic, yet ambitious, targets within the action plans (these targets should address how to maintain, create and restore habitats and species using the Natural Area framework);
  • consulting people during the drafting process;
  • building mechanisms into the plans to monitor progress to ensure effective action.

Having decided which plans were to be written, local experts were approached to author the first drafts. To encourage a common approach to the writing of the plans, some guidance notes were produced for authors, along with template plans. Each plan went through several drafts with the Technical Group playing a leading role in suggesting amendments. Once the plan was nearing its final draft it was edited further to ensure its conformity with the others in terms of layout and style.

A consultation draft of the main parts of the BAP was circulated to over 130 organisations and individuals in January 2001. The present BAP has been amended taking account, so far as has been possible, of the responses received. A summary of the consultation process is provided in Appendix 6. A glossary of technical terms used is also provided along with an explanation of the layout adopted for each of the HAPs and SAPs.

2.7 A People Plan

Early in the BAP process it was realised that the awareness and involvement of people would be key to the eventual success of the action plans. For this reason, as well as the ‘Technical Working Group’ there was established an 'Education and Publicity Working Group.' This Group brought together a wide range of individuals with expertise in raising awareness and working with different sectors of the community. A number of meetings were convened with the aim of developing a 'People Plan'. This Plan was envisaged as a document that would guide awareness raising activities.

The People Plan is included in this BAP.