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District councils to consider joint ecological vision

08 June 2022 : Council news, Partnership working, Environment

Somerset West and Taunton (SWT) and Sedgemoor District (SDC) Councils are working on joint proposals to reverse the deterioration of ecosystems within each Local Authority area.

The joint proposals have been incorporated into an Ecological Emergency Vision and Action Plan (EEVAP), which set out the Councils’ ambitions to deliver ecological enhancement and protection through a framework of key actions and projects.

It completes SWT’s commitment to nature recovery following its declaration of an Ecological Emergency in September 2020 and builds upon the nature-based actions listed in SWT’s Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience Action Plan (CNCR) and SDC’s Climate Emergency Action Plan (CEAP).

In their 2019 report, State of Nature Partnership reported that since the 1970’s, 41% of UK species have declined, with 15% threatened by extinction and 27% found in fewer places. In Sedgemoor, 63% of its terrestrial SSSI (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) habitat which should be in pristine condition, is in an unfavourable, declining or partially destroyed condition and in Somerset West and Taunton, only 11 out of 35 are described as being in a favourable condition.

The projects within the Action Plan have been categorised into four main themes: efforts undertaken by the Councils directly through operational work, decision and policy making; enabling organisations to take action for wildlife through funding and other mechanisms; supporting and working with the public to drive change through awareness raising activities; and lobbying Central Government for policies that enhance and protect wildlife.

The proposed plan will be discussed by SWT’s Executive Councillors at their upcoming meeting on 15 June 2022, before being considered for adoption by the Full Council on 5 July 2022. The EEVAP will go before SDC’s Community Scrutiny Committee on 13 June, the Executive on 7 July and the Full Council on 20 July.

If approved, it will enable council resources to be shared, delivering immediate actions in 2022/23 and longer-term actions from 2024 until 2030.

With the advent of the new unitary council for Somerset (Somerset Council), the EEVAP will set a template for collaboration to be duplicated across the county following vesting day on 1 April 2023.

Executive Member for Climate Change, Cllr Dixie Darch, said: “We’re blessed with a rich tapestry of landscapes, wildlife and habitats in Sedgemoor and Somerset West and Taunton, which play a key role in mitigating the effects of climate change, as well as supporting our wellbeing.

“However, overconsumption of the Earth’s natural resources is degrading our ecosystems and contributing to biodiversity loss, which in turn, will affect our communities and economy.

“Both we and Sedgemoor District Council recognise the need to agree and enact a joint plan to protect and enhance them as soon as possible and to that end, our joint Ecological Emergency Vision and Action Plan demonstrates our leadership and commitment towards reversing this decline, and how we can work collectively to lessen the impact.

“We’ve already identified over 150 potential actions to support biodiversity enhancement and recovery through the framework of key actions, which are compatible with Local Nature Partnership outcomes and have the flexibility to be easily adopted by the new unitary Council.”

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