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

Memorandum by English Nature (OS 09)

  1.  English Nature is the statutory body that champions the conservation and enhancement of the wildlife and natural features of England. We do this by:

    —  advising—Government, other agencies, local authorities, interest groups, business, communities, individuals

    —  regulating—activities affecting the special nature conservation sites in England

    —  enabling—helping others to manage land for nature conservation, through grants, projects and information

    —  enthusing—advocating nature conservation for all and biodiversity as a key test of sustainable development

  2.  In fulfilling our statutory duties, we:

    —  establish and manage National Nature Reserves;

    —  notify and safeguard Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs);

    —  advocate to government departments and others effective policies for nature conservation;

    —  disseminate guidance and advice about nature conservation;

    —  promote research relevant to nature conservation.

  3.  Through the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, English Nature works with sister organisations in Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland to advise Government on UK and international nature conservation issues.

  4.  Our comments for the inquiry are as follows:

  4.1  The majority of English Nature's work takes place "on the ground" and hence it will have a spatial reference. The use and development of mapping products to survey, store and display information on wildlife resources, natural features and other scientific matters has been considerable during the current Service Level Agreement with the Ordnance Survey.

  4.2  English Nature's work is critical to many areas of government. A selection of current uses includes:

    —  site designation and management programmes, especially the ability to optimise use of GIS applications for site management agreements and works contracts which will link to the delivery of Public Service Agreements (PSA) targets and enable Government to fulfil its international obligations under various European Directives and global conventions;

    —  GIS-based inventories of sites in the wider countryside that make significant contributions to achieving UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UKBAP) targets, with links to the farmland/wild birds PSA target and more effective delivery of agri-environment schemes through better targeting;

    —  re-building biodiversity at a landscape scale and the further development of the Lifescapes-based approach;

    —  ability to support delivery of better management of non-statutory sites (through local sites grant scheme)—a Rural White Paper commitment;

    —  support to, and data sharing with, the National Biodiversity Network, Local Record Centres and Regional Observatories;

    —  monitoring of BAP target delivery;

    —  ability to analyse spatial data at landscape scale to inform policy development;

    —  response to statutory planning, development proposals and Environmental Impact Assessments within the timescale and to the required quality.

  4.3  The provision of our own data to the rest of Central and Local Government, academia, research and other conservation bodies is vital to our work and to theirs. Access to this data by other organisations is essential in the fulfilment of their duties, especially in relation to Government socio-economic and environmental objectives.

  4.4  English Nature has plans in place to play its part in a Joined-up Government and to embrace, and contribute to, the Ordnance Survey Digital National Framework.

  4.5  We are currently involved in negotiations to secure a centrally-funded Pan-Government Agreement that will enable us to maximise the use of Ordnance Survey mapping which is the basic building block for so much of our work. Failure to achieve this, and the resultant need to fund large payments to Ordnance Survey, will have consequential damaging effects on our ability to fund essential work across English Nature and jeopardise both Biodiversity Action Plan and Public Service Agreement targets, which Government regards as crucial to its wider policies.

  4.6  We hope the Committee will recommend that a centrally funded Pan-Government Agreement with Ordnance Survey which covers all Departments and their Non-Departmental Public Bodies, would provide the most cost-effective approach to the provision of digital map information which is essential to many public services.

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