Committee Minutes

 

JNCC 02 M04
June 2004
 

CONFIRMED MINUTES OF THE SIXTY-THIRD MEETING OF THE JOINT NATURE CONSERVATION COMMITTEE, HELD ON 16 JUNE 2004 AT THE THISTLE HOTEL, MILLBURN ROAD, INVERNESS, IV2 3TR

 

Present:

Dr Blakiston-Houston
Professor Dodgshon
Professor Doyle
Dr Faulkner
Professor Ingram (Acting Chairman)
Mr Lloyd-Jones
Dr Markland
Dr Moser
Professor Pentreath

In attendance:

Miss Bigger (secretariat)
Professor Galbraith
Dr Charman
Dr Johnston (item 9)
Mrs McQueen (items 5, 6 and 7)
Mr Thomas
Dr Vincent
Mr Yeo
 
 
 
 
 
 

Content

 

Decision session

7 FMPR update (JNCC 04 P12)

 

Discussion papers

12 UK Ramsar Review (JNCC 04 D08)
 

Information papers

14 SAC moderation update (JNCC 04 N03)
 
In confidence session
 
17 The conservation of Harbour Porpoise in UK waters (JNCC 04 P06)
 
 

1      Chairman's Opening Remarks

                                  

1.1     Chairman advised Committee that a press release had been issued to media in the Inverness area concerning the meeting and as a consequence of this Mr Yeo had given an interview on Moray Firth radio the week before outlining the work of Committee and the topics to be covered on the field visit.

                                  
1.2     Apologies were received from Sir Martin Doughty, Mr Scott, Ms Warhurst, Dr Jardine, Dr Brown and Mr Steer.  Dr Moser informed Committee that Sir Martin, who is currently undergoing treatment for an illness, sent his best wishes.  Dr Moser is currently deputising for Sir Martin until July 2004 unless this is extended.  Chairman extended best wishes for a speedy recovery to Sir Martin on behalf of Committee.
                                  
1.3     Chairman welcomed to the meeting, Dr Charman who was representing Dr Brown and Mr Watson, an SNH Director, as an observer.
                                  
1.4     In terms of the appointment of a new Chair, Chairman advised that a good field of applicants had been received.  Shortlisting would be taking place on the same day as the Committee meeting with interviews planned for mid July 2004.
                                  

2      Amendments to the minutes (no paper)

                                  
2.1     The minutes were approved with no amendments.
                                  

3      Matters arising (no paper)

                                  
3.1     Matters arising (no paper)
                                  
3.2     Updating on item 8 from the previous meeting, relating to the Irish Sea Pilot and its context within the Review of Marine Nature Conservation (RMNC) report, Dr Vincent advised that the RMNC report had been finalised and would be published at the end of July 2004.  The final draft covered all of the points raised by the Committee at their previous meeting.
                                  
3.3     Dr Vincent reminded Committee that their advice to Government on the Quinquennial Review of Schedules 5 and 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act was submitted to Defra in September 2002.  However, since then, no action has been taken by Defra and the consultation exercise has still to be carried out.  Committee endorsed the suggestion that the JNCC Chairman should write to the Minister emphasising that this area of work needed to be progressed rapidly.
                                  

4      Declaration of interests

                                  
4.1     Committee members did not express any interests relevant to items being discussed at the meeting.
                                  

5      JNCC's strategy:  allocation of resources to strategic objectives (JNCC 04 P10)

                                  
5.1     Mrs McQueen introduced this paper noting that the Committee had endorsed the key strategic documents at their meeting in December 2003 and that this paper highlighted the next steps, indicating how the strategy could be transposed into operational plans.
                                  
5.2     Following the previous Committee meeting, the Support Unit had evaluated existing work programmes against the strategy and identified changes to work programmes and resources required to begin delivery of the strategic objectives over a five-year period.  Staff from the Support Unit, with interests in the particular area, had been involved in the evaluation.  Whilst it was recognised that it was difficult to predict future demand for many areas of work it was felt that there was enough information to provide a broad outline.  Committee was asked to provide direction on the scale of the resources the JNCC should aim to achieve, whether the Support Unit had adequately identified the priorities, and the implications if strategy implementation is constrained by limited funding.  Guidance from Committee would be used to inform the corporate plan for 2005-08.
                                  
5.3     Mr Yeo added that a substantial increase in funding and significant resources shifts would be required to deliver the whole strategy.  However, the paper was not a bidding document, rather, it provided a view of the broad costs associated with the strategic objectives as a basis for Committee to consider the options for implementation.  Guidance from Committee on priorities was essential at this critical juncture in the process. 
                                  
5.4     Committee noted that in the current financial climate it would be hard for the agencies to approach their respective administrations for increases in funding for work that is not directly relevant to their geographical remits (e.g. offshore marine and Overseas Territories).  Committee agreed that other sources of funding for these areas should be explored and that Government requirements for advice from JNCC should also be clarified. However, it was also important to recognise that the strategy involves stimulating demand by raising awareness of important issues as well as answering to existing demand. It would be useful to look at the strategy and segregate areas that would require core funding from grant in aid, those that could benefit from partnership working, and those needing direct funding from Government.
                                  
5.5     Committee then considered each objective in turn.
                                  

          Objective 1 – vision for nature conservation

                                  
5.6     Committee agreed that this was a high priority area of work and involved Committee working in a different, more strategic way.  It was felt that some areas of objective 4 (in particular relating to undertaking the development of major concepts and organisational learning) should more readily sit in objective 1.
                                  

          Objective 2 – provision of information

                                  
5.7     Committee agreed that this was a high priority area of work and a key function of JNCC.  Professor Doyle noted the importance of the GCR dataset in this objective and the need to ensure that it is made more widely available.  The importance of identifying a strategic framework for the work undertaken within which this objective (included under objective 4) was acknowledged.  A small increase in funding had been identified but as already noted there was a large amount of uncertainty about the future demand from Government.  Committee recognised that investment in this objective would hopefully result in future efficiency savings by enabling better targeting of nature conservation effort.
                                  

          Objective 3 – European and international influencing

                                  
5.8     Committee recognised this as a high priority area of work. The approach that JNCC takes in establishing the UK position should recognise that CAs currently contribute differently at European and international levels. It was questioned whether the JNCC should take a leadership or advisory role.  Successful delivery of the objective would depend on improving partnership working between the JNCC and the country agencies. 
                                  

          Objective 4 – UK co-ordination

                                  
5.9     Committee recognised the importance of the JNCC's role in providing quality assurance, developing major concepts likely to benefit nature conservation, and formulating strategic approaches (e.g. towards surveillance and monitoring).  It was felt that some aspects of this objective, in particular the development of major concepts, sat more readily in objective 1, as mentioned above.
                                  

          Objective 5 – nature conservation beyond territorial waters

                                  
5.10   Committee noted that this was an important area of work but that the objective could only be achieved if direct funding was received from Government to support it.
                                  

          Objective 6 – nature conservation in the Overseas Territories

                                  
5.11   Committee recognised that this was an important area of work but should be funded directly by UK Government rather than through the country agencies' grant in aid.  However, there would be a need for some staff resource to secure this funding. It would be important to adopt and promote a sustainable approach, establishing links with the Governments and other relevant bodies in the Overseas Territories to develop partnership working.
                                  

          Objective 7 – the UK's 'global footprint'

                                  
5.12   Committee noted that it was difficult to quantify the future demand for this objective.  It would be essential to identify other organisations who were carrying out work in this area (e.g. the Sustainable Development Commission), identify relevant gaps and define where JNCC could add value.  Committee also recognised that geodiversity should be included within this objective.
                                  

          Objective 8 – support services

                                  
5.13   Committee recognised that this objective was different from the others in the sense that it referred to the services that supported delivery of the other objectives.  It was, therefore, difficult to formulate this objective until the others had been confirmed.  Committee also acknowledged that this objective could be affected by issues such as the Gershon Review and the Modernising Rural Delivery programme.  The projected drop in level of resources through continued efficiency savings was commended and it was proposed that a target should be set limiting the financial allocation to this objective.
                                  
5.14   Committee confirmed that objectives 1, 2, 3 and parts of 4 were the highest priority areas of work for core grant in aid.  Objectives 5 and 6 were important components of the special functions but could only be progressed significantly if additional money was received from UK Government or other sources.  Similarly, implementation of objective 7 was dependent on obtaining additional funds and also defining JNCC's role more closely.  Committee advocated a proactive stance on seeking additional funding and agreed that it would be appropriate for the new Chairman to seek a Ministerial meeting to promote the objectives within the strategy.  It would be useful to consider meeting with other Ministers who might also have an influence such as the International Development Minister.  In speaking with Ministers it would be important to highlight the timetable for political imperatives to indicate when funding would be needed to achieve these goals. 
                                  

6      Corporate governance arrangements for the JNCC after April 2005 (JNCC 04 P11)

                                  
6.1     Mrs McQueen introduced this paper highlighting that the corporate governance arrangements for the JNCC after April 2005 would need to meet both public and private sector requirements.  The Management Statement and Financial Memorandum would be presented to Committee at their September 2004 meeting but the paper asked Committee to confirm the proposals for the company model in order to inform the preparation of the memorandum and articles of association.  Agreement of the company model was required as it needed to be incorporated into the Regulatory Reform Order (RRO).  A clear distinction had been made between the Committee and the company and the schedule of delegations annexed to the paper outlined this.
                                  
6.2     Good progress had been made on resolving the issue of indemnification of Directors and this would be reported upon soon.  Similarly with respect to the responsibility of company directors to make sure the company remained solvent, it had been agreed that funding should be underwritten to provide this guarantee – this was common practice in other public sector companies.  
                                  
6.3     The issue that particularly required comment from Committee was whether all Committee members should become Directors within the company.  Defra, and others, had indicated that this would need to be on a voluntary basis as it might deter applicants if it were to be made a condition of appointment.  The FMPR subgroup had strongly supported the position that all Directors should have equal voting rights within the company.  However, Defra have suggested that the voting arrangements for the company should mirror those set out for the Joint Committee within the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which currently excludes the Northern Ireland members from voting.
                                  
6.4     Committee agreed that the company should be controlled and owned by the Committee and that all Committee members should be Directors, particularly if there was no issue of securing personal indemnity.  It was felt that new appointments should contain the condition that members become Directors of the company.  Committee also supported the stance that all members of Committee should have equal voting rights within the company.  Committee thanked staff from the Support Unit and particularly Mrs McQueen and Mr Yeo for all of their work in this area.
                                  

7      FMPR update (JNCC 04 P12)

                                  
7.1     Mrs McQueen introduced this paper which set out the current issues and included the draft Regulatory Reform Order (RRO) as an annex.  There had been significant slippage in the RRO process for various reasons. The process was several months behind schedule and there was now no contingency time for any further slippage.  Defra still believe that a start date of April 2005 is achievable as some elements of the process can be compressed.  However, as there is still no clear timetable the Support Unit have considered the risks of slippage which include implications of clashes with external changes such as Modernising Rural Delivery Programme. It is important to ensure that effort is maintained and the FMPR Steering Group has signalled their commitment to ensure the support to the process is treated as a priority.  The Support Unit is also working with the country agencies on contingency planning if the timetable slips beyond April 2005. 
                                  
7.2     A note would be sent out to Support Unit staff that week to inform them of the slippage. 
                                  
7.3     Committee noted the progress made and confirmed their support for the RRO, agreeing that it was important to keep pressure on the process to ensure no further slippage.
                                  

8      JNCC's corporate identity (JNCC 04 P08)

                                  
8.1     Mr Yeo introduced this paper which set out the findings of an extensive audit related to the corporate identity of the JNCC which covered the views of both internal and external customers.  Overall, the audit had concluded that the JNCC was recognised as a good source of advice but that it had a low profile amongst the bodies that should recognise it.  Additionally, some respondents had suggested that the name and logo of the organisation were not helpful in raising the profile of the organisation.
                                  
8.2     The paper noted that it is timely to consider the corporate identity in line with strategy developments and the paper set out the process for investigating corporate identity options, asking that responsibility for overseeing the project be delegated to the FMPR subgroup in order to expediate the process.  At a meeting of the FMPR subgroup the previous morning it had been agreed that Committee would need to make a decision at their business meeting on the way to proceed.
                                  
8.3     Committee expressed some concerns about the costs of establishing a new corporate identity, including a new name and logo and it was confirmed that £40k had already been made available as a provision in the business plan for 2004/05.  This amount not only covered the work to investigate a new name and logo, should that be required, but also the cost of replacing all stationery and providing launch materials for the new strategy.
                                  
8.4     There was discussion amongst Committee about the speed at which to proceed.  Some members thought a new corporate identity (including a new name and logo) was paramount to highlight the changes which the organisation was going through and to give it a more memorable profile.  However, others thought that there was not a compelling case for the establishment of a completely new identity.  It was noted that the initials 'JNCC' were widely recognised and there might be benefit in retaining these alongside a new name (in the same way that IUCN is known as the World Conservation Union).  It was recognised that the Modernising Rural Delivery Programme might also have an impact when the new integrated agency is set up.  Whatever the corporate identity of the JNCC it should not confuse the public with respect to its role and the role of the country agencies.
                                  
8.5     Committee agreed that the FMPR subgroup should be used as the forum to consider ideas between Committee meetings and that a further iteration of the paper should be brought back to Committee in September 2004, with options and their pros and cons.  The new Chair should also be in position by this time and it would ensure that he/she could have appropriate input.
                                  

9      Marine Natura 2000 – process for consideration of Offshore SACs and for SPAs and SACs which cross the 12 nautical mile boundary (JNCC 04 P09)

                                  
9.1     Dr Johnston introduced this paper which followed discussions on Marine Natura 2000 developments at the March 2004 meeting of Committee.  In relation to offshore habitat SACs, the Committee had requested that the proposals be returned for consideration at a future meeting supported by the process and method for site selection and an appropriate information package justifying the site proposals and the procedure by which Committee will decide on SACs.
                                  
9.2     The paper proposed a process leading up to and following the submission of offshore SAC proposals to Committee and the documentation to be provided in support of such proposals.  A worked example based on the 'Saturn Sabellaria spinulosa reef site' was included in the paper together with a summary of the working methodology adopted by the Committee for identifying possible offshore SACs, and the identification of site boundaries.
                                  
9.3     CCW commended the process as both straightforward and acceptable but asked for it to be made clear that paragraph 2.2v should make reference to the country agencies compiling the data and the JNCC submitting it, as this was the usual practice.
                                  
9.4     SNH welcomed the process and in particular the pro forma outlined at paragraph 3.2.  Their only query related to whether the pro forma at annex 3 provided the full context for nominating sites.  It was acknowledged that there is a lack of knowledge about what is on the seabed for Sabellaria sites as there are very few in the UK.  The quantity of information for the site noted in the paper was, therefore, probably sufficient but it was likely that more information would be needed for site types that were more prevalent.  The pro forma could also be strengthened by relating the range of features to the European environment and placing the site in a European context, where this was possible.
                                  
9.5     Committee noted that the site was being put forward because of its vulnerable nature but agreed that it would be useful, with the submission, to identify management actions that could mitigate any further degradation of the site.
                                  
9.6     Committee approved the process and the documentation package outlined in the paper and endorsed the 'Saturn Sabellaria spinulosa reef site' for submission to Government, noting that it would be useful to include suggested management actions in future submissions.  In addition, Committee delegated to Chairman authority for agreeing SAC and SPA proposals which cross the 12 nautical mile boundary, where at least 90% of the site is inshore and has been approved by the appropriate country agency Council/Board.
                                  

10    Proposal for conversion of the Lowland Heathland Lead Agency to a Lead Co-ordination network (JNCC 04 P07)

                                  
10.1   Dr Vincent introduced this paper outlining that in a lead agency arrangement the JNCC delegates to one of the country agency Councils or Boards responsibility to undertake a special function on its behalf, while, in a lead co-ordination network, the JNCC authorises joint working between the country agencies to undertake such functions, with one Council acting as chair.  These mechanisms are used when the JNCC does not have expertise on a particular subject within the Support Unit.
                                  
10.2   In respect of the Lowland Heathland lead agency, the lead agency itself has advocated the change to a lead co-ordination network as expertise now resides within several of the country agencies. 
                                  
10.3   Committee approved the conversion of the Lowland Heathland Lead Agency to a Lead Co-ordination Network with English Nature acting as the Chair of the Network.
                                  

11    Convention on Biological Diversity – update following the Conference of Parties in February 2004 (JNCC 04 D06)

                                  
11.1   Mr Yeo introduced this paper which summarised the outcomes from the 7th Conference of Parties (CoP) and outlined the main UK and European issues moving towards CoP8.  The focus following CoP7 was on consolidating progress and implementing current initiatives rather than introducing new ones.  The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is becoming increasingly important in setting the domestic agenda and it is important to engage as effectively and efficiently as possible with the Convention.
                                  
11.2   Dr Moser welcomed the paper and highlighted how the CBD was linked to objective 1 of the strategy and could help to inform the JNCC's vision.  A cycle was developing whereby JNCC received information from the international arena which was then fed back to the country agencies.  The Committee agreed that it would need to adjust the way in which it worked to facilitate this process and it would be useful to set up short seminars with the Support Unit and country agency staff to feed into Committee meetings and subsequently the formation of international advice.
                                  
11.3   Professor Galbraith noted that the paper was very helpful in enabling input to be gathered from the country agencies before the next CoP.  It would be useful to establish the timeline for other Conferences and Conventions too, such as Ramsar.  As the 2010 target of significantly reducing the current rate of global biodiversity loss approaches, more work will need to be done.
                                  
11.4   With respect to point 3.11 relating to work on the ecosystem approach, Committee recognised that it would be important to identify what resources the country agencies would need to provide and when.
                                  
11.5   Committee welcomed the paper and agreed that it would be useful for future Committee input to be aligned with timelines for the CBD and other Conventions.  It was agreed that seminars with staff would be beneficial and that the resources required from the country agencies on the ecosystem approach would be discussed at a forthcoming Policy Directors meeting.  Committee noted also that the UK would be holding the EU Presidency in 2005 and it would be important to return to Committee to discuss this.
                                  

12    UK Ramsar Review (JNCC 04 D08)

                                  
12.1   Dr Vincent introduced this paper advising that, following the Ramsar CoP in 1999, the UK undertook to carry out a review of Ramsar sites.  Although the review does not exclude bird sites it mostly covers other sites, including those in the Crown Depdencies and Overseas Territories as well as the metropolitan UK.  There is a tight timetable to work towards with the recommended list to be submitted by November 2004 for publication in the UK Ramsar report in December 2004.  Dr Vincent acknowledged that the designation of new sites would have implications for the country agencies.  The Chief Scientists Group had agreed that designation of new sites would only be justified should there be a real benefit for nature conservation and should not just be a rebadging exercise.  Consultation will take place over the summer in time for the Ramsar Review Steering Group meeting in November 2004.  Dr Vincent noted that the country agencies would need sufficient time to input to the list that is presented to the Steering Group.  It was intended that a paper will then be brought back to Committee in September 2004.
                                  
12.2   Committee expressed the firm view that the report should not be placed in the public domain prior to the country agencies having the opportunity to consult with the owners and occupiers of new sites proposed for designation under the Ramsar Convention.
                                  
12.3   Committee welcomed the stance that new sites should only be designated if they demonstrated real conservation benefit and noted that sites would normally only be deleted from the list if they had become significantly damaged – it was an exception for a site to be removed from the list.  It was agreed that the list would be presented to the Steering Group in confidence initially, with a strict requirement that time be allocated to allow the country agencies time to consult with the owners and occupiers of proposed new sites before the information became publicly available.
                                  

13    End of year performance monitoring report for 2003/04 (JNCC 04 D07)

                                  
13.1   Mr Yeo introduced this paper explaining that it reported on performance in the areas of risk management, targets, staffing and financial information.  Overall target performance had been very good with 96% of key targets being fully or largely completed, an improvement on the previous year.
                                  
13.2   Committee congratulated the Support Unit on their performance over the year and added that it was also a testament to improved partnership working.
                                  

14    SAC moderation update (JNCC 04 N03)

                                  
14.1   This paper provided an update on the submission of UK sites for the list of Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) for the Atlantic Biogeographical Region.  The paper included a review of the proposed SACs and advised that a further tranche of sites and data amendments was to be submitted by the end of July 2004.  The paper also updated on other elements of the moderation and submission process.
                                  
14.2   Committee noted the paper.
                                  

15    Climate change – update on initiatives in whicb JNCC is participating (JNCC 04 N02)

                                  
15.1   This paper provided a brief update on climate change initiatives in which JNCC is participating covering the Modelling Natural Resource Responses to Climate Change (MONARCH) and MarClim projects and work in the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.
                                  
15.2   Committee noted the paper.
                                  

16    Any other business

                                  
16.1   On behalf of the Committee Chairman thanked Scottish Natural Heritage for hosting the meeting and the field trip the day before.  Committee confirmed that the next field trip in June 2005 would be hosted by the Countryside Council for Wales.
                                  
16.2   Dr Markland noted that, should this be Professor Ingram's last meeting in the post of acting Chair, Committee would like to thank him for taking on the role and for his excellent chairmanship of meetings.