Give Councils the power to protect nature reserves

Give Councils the power to protect nature reserves

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Like many areas around the UK, Kingston has a wonderful Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) called Seething Wells Filter Beds, but as it’s in private ownership the local Council cannot force the owners to look after it properly.

Residents expect a council to ensure any nature reserve, rich in biodiversity, is protected and enhanced, but current legislation does not allow a council to do that. Only the police can take action under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and then only after something has already been done. We want a council to be able to proactively make sure any nature reserve is looked after and biodiversity enhanced.

We’re calling on the Government to introduce ‘Biodiversity Partnership Agreements’ for all local and nationally listed nature conservation sites, including those in private ownership, which

  • would require owners of nature conservation sites to enter into an agreement with their local council on what works are needed to maintain the site for improved biodiversity
  • would allow councils to enter the site to monitor all works taking place and start enforcement if the agreement is not adhered to. This would be both if needed maintenance is not happening or if other harmful works are taking place
  • could require annual reporting on enhancements achieved, which could then be used to help site owners apply for funding from charities supporting wildlife conservation
  • could be used to help with local biodiversity net gain legislation, using money levied by other developments unable to clearly demonstrate on-site biodiversity gain during the planning process

There is a precedent and it could be based on the lines of a Heritage Partnership Agreement for listed buildings.

Biodiversity Partnership Agreements would mean that special sites like Seething Wells would get the protection they deserve and provide:

  • residents and site owners with clear and demonstrable objectives on a site by site basis
  • residents with one accountable organisation for a site - the council
  • residents and stakeholders with the opportunity to scrutinise net biodiversity gain within their area