To receive a presentation from Louise Piper, Planning Policy and Conservation Manager on the key work areas of the Conservation Team. Paul Howe, the Council’s Ecology Officer will also give an overview of his area of work, in particular, the Council’s draft Biodiversity Action Plan (copy attached) which is out for public consultation until 1st February, 2016.
The Panel received a presentation from Ms. Louise Piper, Planning Policy and Conservation Manager, and Dr. Paul Howe, Biodiversity Officer.
Ms. Piper gave an outline of the work of the Planning Policy and Conservation Team. In respect of planning policy, Ms. Piper gave details of the Team’s work on the following areas:
· the Development Plan for Rushmoor
- Core Strategy
- New Rushmoor Local Plan
· the wide scope of planning issues
- housing: employment; transport; design; Farnborough Airport; and, the town centres
- conservation: heritage assets, conservation areas
- natural environment: biodiversity; countryside; green infrastructure, Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area; water and flooding
· Supplementary Planning Documents (e.g. Buildings of Local Importance)
Ms. Piper advised Members of the work of the team in respect of conservation, trees and biodiversity. It was noted that, in 2011, a shared service had been implemented with Hart District Council. Rushmoor’s officers remained employed full-time, but some salary costs had been recouped through time spent working at Hart. The shared service had impacted on the capacity of the Conservation, Trees and Biodiversity Officers at Rushmoor, however, the shared service had enabled Rushmoor to retain officer expertise and at less cost than previously and for less than employing consultants.
In respect of conservation of the built environment, Ms. Piper advised the Panel that work was carried out providing advice on planning applications and also on listings, amendments and advice on planning applications in respect of nationally and locally listed buildings and heritage assets. Advice was also given on pre-application enquiries (e.g. Cambridge Military Hospital and Louise Margaret Hospital).
Ms. Piper also gave an outline of arboricultural issues (Tree Preservation Orders, dealing with applications for tree works and providing advice and guidance at pre-application stage). Work in connection with biodiversity issues included dealing with sites of nature conservation value at local level (Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation and Local Nature Reserves), national level (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) and international level (Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area – advice on mitigation/Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace). Wherever possible, a partnership approach was adopted to protection and enhancement of the natural environment.
Dr. Paul Howe, the Council’s Biodiversity Officer, then gave a presentation on the Rushmoor Biodiversity Action Plan (B.A.P.) The Panel was advised that the B.A.P. 2009 – 2014 had been adopted in 2009 and had included an audit of biodiversity in the Borough and set out a series of actions. It provided a framework to deliver biodiversity enhancement and protection across Rushmoor. The actions had been delivered through partnership work, planning, volunteer groups and other Council departments. It was noted that the B.A.P. had four main delivery areas on which progress had been made over the five year Action Plan period:
· protect and conserve the biodiversity resource
· create new areas for wildlife
· education and awareness (external and internal)
· partnership work
Dr. Howe gave details of examples of projects that had been carried out by partners, including the Farnborough Community Centre pond, a Community Matters Partnership project, and Brickfields path creation.
The draft Biodiversity Action Plan 2016-21 was currently the subject of a consultation exercise, the closing date for which was 1st February, 2016. The document had built on the preceding Plan and had been updated in a few key areas to take account of: the National Planning Policy Framework Environment White Paper; actions designed to reflect current resource for delivery; continued commitment to partnership working; focus on enhancement on Council sites; and, the importance of communication. Dr. Howe asked for any comments on the draft Biodiversity Action Plan 2016-21 to be sent to him for consideration for inclusion in the final document.
Ms. Piper and Dr. Howe then answered Members’ questions in respect of the recording of the numbers and types of species in the Borough, the involvement of ward councillors, local groups and civic society groups, local businesses and neighbourhood groups in projects requiring volunteers, the use of the Arena magazine to publicise the need for support. It was also suggested that consideration could be given to the creation of a joint database of potential conservation projects.
On behalf of the Panel, the Chairman thanked Ms. Piper and Dr. Howe for their informative presentations.
The Panel NOTED the updates on the work of the Planning Policy and Conservation Team.