Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-45)

TUESDAY 16 OCTOBER 2001

SIR MARTIN DOUGHTY, SUE COLLINS AND NICK RADFORD

  40. Yes, but what we are addressing now is how that is done and maintained in a way that it is usable to the public and not destroying their lives, we are trying to get beyond that. Could I ask you how English Nature relates to regional assemblies, in terms of regional strategy, and local authorities, in terms of local strategy?
  (Sir Martin Doughty) English Nature has been addressing the regional agenda. That is very important as there is now much more implementation in the regions. We were discussing at English Nature only a couple of days ago the need for me and the Chief Executive to actually go round to each region, particularly to the regional assemblies, to talk about the biodiversity issues that we feel strongly about, particularly the issues of wildlife and people and the fact that that can be of economic value to an area. We are looking, for instance, at wildlife tourism, in some areas, that that is firmly entrenched within the way that regional strategies are being developed. And, clearly, the RDAs, the regional assemblies, the Government Office, Countryside Agency, ourselves, English Heritage, are all key players in that and we want to play our full part in that.

  41. Are you satisfied that, in practice, the biodiversity action plans are addressing the issue of open space?
  (Sir Martin Doughty) No, I am not satisfied that the biodiversity action plans in some places have, in fact, got beyond the stage of being plans, and we are back to this implementation issue and resourcing issue. And one of the key elements of our submission is that PPG17 should very firmly embrace biodiversity action plans as part of its process, and there are other issues in rural areas and in areas of high nature conservation value that biodiversity action plans need to take account of, but there is particularly a need for getting on with implementation.

  42. Is English Nature involved in developing community strategies at a local level, and in what other ways do you work with local authorities; or how do you see the potential for that, and how would you like to see the PPG adjusted to make that easier, if that is appropriate?
  (Sir Martin Doughty) I think there is great potential for that, and the answer is it is probably quite patchy; but I will let Sue answer that one.
  (Ms Collins) I think it is at several levels. We need a commitment in the PPG to the sorts of objectives that we have been discussing, and then, the community strategies, to help implement the commitment. In English Nature we are not able to engage with all community strategies, bottom up, because we do not have sufficient people on the ground; but we are creating a web site with a resource for community strategy-makers, which shows them what they have got in their local area, in terms of biodiversity, what the targets are in the national biodiversity strategy that are relevant to their area, so to try to empower people who are involved at the local level with information that is relevant. And then, in a certain number of places, we are actually engaging in developing community strategies, and perhaps Nick can add to this, to help get best practice that could be mirrored elsewhere; because we see great potential in these for actually operationalising the targets and the philosophy that we have that green space is important.

  43. In answering that, could you relate that to the PPG?
  (Mr Radford) Our community strategies are actually at a very early stage, particularly in my patch, across London, we have only got, I think, two local authorities that have actually started the process. As Sue says, we would be offering them advice in all sorts of ways, particularly at the moment we are thinking of offering advice through our web site. In the past, we have been working closely with local authorities on the local agenda 21 strategies, those were the predecessors of community strategies, but we are working with local authorities in all sorts of ways, and programmes of local nature reserve declarations, commenting on their UDPs, their development control, and so on, looking for opportunities that way, all the time.

Chairman

  44. Can I ask you, finally, is there a conflict between green space and sport?
  (Sir Martin Doughty) There is not, if the conflict is managed out of the process. We are not saying that the emphasis given to sport is not important, we are saying that the emphasis given to open space, in a sense, has almost been tagged onto the end of this, in the way that it has been developed. We are saying, for instance, that many of the issues of sport, particularly in terms of more informal sport, rather than the major stadium development, can be quite perfectly integrated into other activities, including the things that we are responsible for, the enhancement of biodiversity. But a lot of that comes down to the ultimate management of the resource, the need to make sure that there are sufficient funds to be able to do that, on a proper strategy of management that the funds can deliver that against.

  45. Can I give you an example. There are some tennis courts in my constituency which are totally neglected; now, they are pretty good for wildlife, but, in sport terms, they ought to be refurbished: which should have the priority?
  (Sir Martin Doughty) I would probably leave that to the local Member to actually have the final say on it, but there are ways to deal with that. There are related issues. For instance, there are about 250, I think, of what we would describe as brownfield sites in the London area which have quite substantial biodiversity interests. So there are issues in terms of developing brownfield sites, whether you should not develop some of those because of the biodiversity interest; and that is a similar issue, is it not? But there is probably a way of capturing both, I would suspect, in many cases.
  (Ms Collins) Yes. Through a Section106 agreement in another development, you might be able to build a couple of new tennis courts and enhance the biodiversity value that has developed on the neglected courts; there must be loads of creative ways at a local level of meeting both needs.

  Chairman: On that note, thank you very much.


 
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