Minutes

CONFIRMED MINUTES OF THE MEETING OF THE JOINT NATURE CONSERVATION COMMITTEE, HELD ON THURSDAY 8 DECEMBER 2005 AT JNCC, MONKSTONE HOUSE, CITY ROAD, PETERBOROUGH, PE1 1JY         

 

Present:

In attendance:

Dr Blakiston Houston
Dr. Brown
Mr Darby (Chairman)
Dr. Ian Jardine
Professor Doyle
Mrs Quince
Professor Ingram
Mr Steer
Mr Lloyd Jones
Mr Thomas
Dr Moser
Dr Vincent
Dr Markland
Mr Yeo
Professor Pentreath
 
Mr Riddleston
 
Professor Sprent
 
 

Contents:

 
1.         Chairman's opening remarks
 
2.         Declaration of interests
 
 
4.         Matters arising (JNCC 05 P16)
 
Decision Papers
 
 
 
Discussion Papers
 
 
 
Closed Session
 
 
Open Session
 
9.         Common Standards Monitoring – 6 Year Report (JNCC 05 D12)
 
Information Papers
 
 
11.       Report on the Convention of Migratory Species (JNCC 05 N08)
 
 
13.       Report from the Process Working Group (JNCC 05 N05)
 
14.       Any other business
 
 

1. Chairman's opening remarks

          
1.1 Apologies were received from Dr Brown, Rev Dr Burgess, Sir Martin Doughty, Ms Fowler, Professor Galbraith and Dr Meharg.
 
1.2 Chairman welcomed Mr. Bryan Riddleston, of the Countryside Council for Wales, to his first meeting.
 
1.3 Chairman reported that Sir Martin Doughty had resigned from English Nature to take up the appointment of Chairman designate of Natural England, and Dr Moser was now acting Chairman of English Nature. The Chairman would extend the Committee's thanks to Sir Martin for his contribution to its work over the years.
 

2. Declaration of interests

 
2.1 Chairman declared that he had recently been elected President of Plantlife International.
 
2.2 Chairman reminded members of the importance of keeping the register of interests up-to-date and asked that any amendments be forwarded to June Swift.
 
3. Amendments to the minutes of the sixty-eighth meeting (JNCC 05 P15)
 
 
3.1 Committee noted the one amendment to the minutes contained in the paper.
 
3.2 Committee approved the minutes subject to the amendment.
 
4. Matters arising (JNCC 05 P16)
 
4.1 Committee discussed three further items from the minutes of the sixty-eighth meeting, which were not covered by substantive items on the agenda:
 
i. Item 6. Committee were informed that Chairman had written to Brian Harding at Defra, requesting urgent action be taken to implement the recommendations set out in the 4th Quinquennial Review of Schedules 5 and 8;
 
ii. Item 7. Committee were informed that the fast-moving development of the avian influenza issue required the position statement agreed by the Joint Committee to be amended. Following consultation with the agencies, an amended statement was agreed and posted on the JNCC website in November 2005. Chairman thanked Dr. Moser for leading on this matter on behalf of Committee;
 
iii. Item 12.
Maine Thematic Strategy
Committee were informed that in October 2005, the European Commission published a Communication on the Marine Thematic Strategy, accompanied by a proposal for a Directive which lays down guidelines for the achievement of good environmental status for all the EU's marine areas by 2021.
 
Marine Bill
Committee were informed that a public consultation on the Marine Bill was expected to be issued in January/February 2006. Officer level co-ordination arrangements have been established between JNCC and the country agencies to assist in the preparation of responses.
           
5. Procedure by which marine areas wholly or partially in offshore waters are recommended to government for classification as special protection areas (JNCC 05 P14A)
 
5.1 Dr Vincent introduced the paper, and re-affirmed that JNCC is responsible for recommending Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas in the 12-200n mile zone. Dr. Vincent explained that the paper sets out two proposals; firstly, a working procedure with regard to the respective roles of JNCC and the country agencies where areas are partly inshore and partly in offshore waters (paragraph 2.5) and secondly, the proposed format (paragraph 2.3) and type of documentation required to support future proposals for Special Protection Areas under the Birds Directive which fall wholly or partly in offshore waters. Such Special Protection Areas are likely to fall into one of two categories:
 
i. aggregations of inshore non-breeding seabirds which may cross the inshore-offshore boundary;.
 
ii. aggregations of feeding birds.
 
5.2 Committee were invited to agree the proposed procedures set out in paragraphs 2.1 to 2.4 of the paper.
 
5.3 In discussion, the following points were raised in relation to the working procedure (paragraph 2.5):
 
i. it was sensible to have joint working where sites cross the zone;
 
ii. it was sensible to consult with the Republic of Ireland where sites cross over into Irish waters;
 
5.4 Committee agreed that where a site falls between 10-90% in the offshore zone, the proposal would be dealt with jointly by the relevant country agency (ies) and JNCC, but there would be a working presumption that where the site was less than 50% in the offshore zone there would be a working presumption that the relevant country agency would lead on the work and where more than 50% the JNCC would lead.
 
5.5 In discussion the following points were raised in relation to the proposed format and type of documentation required to support future proposals for SPAs (paragraph 2.3):
 
i. Joining-up agendas and encouraging liaison between all parties was sensible and would enable the process to move forward quickly;
 
ii. the proforma approach was good and would ensure consistency;
 
iii. the likelihood of future marine spatial planning had been considered when drawing up the proforma;
 
iv. the proforma approach had also been adopted for SACs
 
5.6 Committee agreed the proposed procedures set out in paragraphs 2.1 – 2.4, subject to the working presumption in 5.4 above.
 
Marine Natura 2000 – Recommendations for the Extension on Existing Seabird Colony Special Protection Areas into the Marine Environment (JNCC 05 P14B)
 
5.7 Dr Vincent introduced the paper and explained that the Committee has considered before generic guidance on seaward boundaries of seabird colony SPAs for 4 species and agreed them as working guidance. This paper expands and extends this initial guidance to include other species. Dr. Vincent explained that the proposals set out in the paper have been the subject of a wide external consultation. The figures for generic guidance of 4 km for Manx shearwater should be treated as a minimum; for some individual sites it may need to be further than that. Dr Vincent explained that, if adopted by the Committee, the guidance would form the basis of advice from country agencies to Government with respect to future extensions of seabird colony SPAs, although Government would decide on boundary changes.
 
5.8 Committee were invited to endorse the recommendations made in i-iv of the cover note.
 
5.9 In discussion the following points were raised:
 
i. once sites have been notified long term monitoring was important;
 
ii. JNCC has an international responsibility for the Manx Shearwater site;
 
iii. resource levels available to country agencies would have a bearing on the timetable for site extensions in line with the guidance;
 
iv. where evidence exists, support should be given for a 4km extension;
 
v. it was important to liaise with other EU countries, outlining guidelines for identifying SPAs in the environment, particularly for those who have not adopted their own guidelines.
 
5.10 Committee:
 
i. re-affirmed its guidance that existing SPAs for which Atlantic puffin, common guillemot and razorbill are designated features be extended into the marine environment by 1km, and its guidance for the seaward boundaries of SPAs for which northern gannet is a designated feature be extended into the marine environment by 2km;
 
ii. endorsed the recommendation that existing SPAs at which northern fulmar is a designated feature be extended into the marine environment by 2km;
 
iii. endorsed the recommendation that existing SPAs at which Manx shearwater is a designated feature be extended into the marine environment by at least 4km; and
 
iv. endorsed the recommendation that generic guidance for extensions to existing SPAs for which other seabirds and waterbirds are included as interest features would not be justified at this time.
                       
 
6. Future organisation of work on nature conservation and Climate Change (JNCC 05 D15)
 
6.1Dr Vincent introduced the paper and explained that, at the June Committee meeting, a paper on climate change and its management had been requested. Dr Vincent explained that JNCC's Strategy recognises that environmental change, and particularly climate change, is a factor which needs to be taken into account in all its future work and needs to permeate the whole range of special and general functions. The issue of climate change had been reviewed by JNCC staff over the last six months and the review had concluded that a range of further work on climate change was required of JNCC and the country agencies, and that it should cover both the special and the general functions. Dr. Vincent went on to explain that the review considered inter-agency organisational arrangements and concluded that these needed to be developed under the auspices of the Joint Committee, but that no existing model was appropriate. The review, therefore, proposed a new model which recognises the need to:
 
i. develop a strategic framework within which climate change work can operate;

ii. utilise a wide range of existing processes and expertise in the delivery of climate change advice; and

iii. develop improved scientific and practical guidance on aspects of mitigation and adaptation for application at a range of levels, including the local level.
 
6.2 The paper proposed that two groups be formed under the auspices of the Joint Committee;
 
i. A Climate Change Strategic Policy Group; and

ii. A Climate Change Science and Practice Group
 
6.3 Committee were invited to comment on the paper and discuss its conclusions
 
6.4 In discussion, the following points were raised:
 
i. the JNCC was perfectly positioned to take a lead on this work;
 
ii. the work provided an opportunity for JNCC and the country agencies to collaborate with the university sector to ensure a wider drawing in of knowledge;
 
iii. climate change work alters the approach to conservation as there is a need to consider the bigger picture. This was particularly important in relation to species distribution, where it is important to consider the total species distribution rather than just focussing on the UK;
 
iv. it was important to remain objective where data are subjective.
 
v. JNCC should position itself carefully to ensure it is distinctive in what it does and aims to add best value;
 
vi. as resources for climate change work were constrained, JNCC should focus on the science as this will inform the debate. It was acknowledged that additional resources would be required to meet objectives and inform the advice;
 
vii. funding for analysis and advice regarding the effects of climate change on the Crown Dependencies & Overseas territories, should be sought from the Foreign & Commonwealth office;
 
6.5 Following a discussion on inter-agency organisational arrangements and the appropriate way to deal with the work, Committee agreed:
 
i. a Working Group, with a limited timescale, be established to examine climate change issues and bring positive recommendations back to the Committee;
 
ii. terms of reference for the Group to be drafted and circulated to Committee members;
 
iii. Chairman and Mr Steer to identify members for the Group;
 
iv. the Group to be established by mid January 2006;
 
v. the Group to report its recommendations to the Committee in June 2006.
 
 
7. An introduction to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the possible implications for the JNCC's work  (JNCC 05 D14)
 
7.1 Mr Yeo introduced the paper and explained that the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment is the culmination of several years work. He explained that at the centre of the Assessment was an evaluation of the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being. Mr. Yeo went on to explain that the Assessment highlighted enormous challenges for the future in reducing the rate of biodiversity loss.
 
7.2 Committee were invited to:
 
i. note the main conclusions of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment;
ii. discuss the implications for the JNCC's future work and how the Assessment might be used to influence JNCC work.
 
7.3 In discussion the following points were noted:
 
i. the Assessment was a valuable resource that JNCC should access;
 
ii. information contained in the Assessment may be particularly helpful in supporting JNCC's work in the Overseas Territories.
 
7.4 Committee noted the main conclusions of the Assessment and acknowledged the value of the resource for future JNCC work.
 
 

Closed Session

 
8. Interim Review of UK Government's Obligations and Policies on International Biodiversity, (JNCC 05 D13)
 
          
8.1 The minutes for this item are contained in a confidential addendum.
 
9. Common Standards Monitoring – 6 Year Report (JNCC 05 D12)
 
9.1 Dr Williams introduced the paper giving an illustrated presentation of the 6 year report. Dr. Williams explained that the report is a culmination of 13 years of achievement by the JNCC and country agency staff, first to develop a system of common standards for the monitoring of designated site features, secondly to ensure that monitoring is undertaken to these standards, and thirdly to analyse the resulting data and report on the results. In the introductory presentation Committee were provided with information by:
 
i. site type,
 
ii. condition of broad groups of features;
 
i. iii. comparison of lowland and upland habitats;
 
iii. resources spent on monitoring and site management.
 
9.2 Dr Williams explained that monitoring would support conservation action from local to national level by identifying the beneficial effect of current measures taken and the areas where future action needed to be focussed. It was intended to finalise the report text over the next few weeks and publish it in March 2006.
 
9.3 Committee were invited to consider the report and comment on its content.
 
9.4 In discussion the following points were raised on the report:
 
i. that data on overgrazing and undergrazing on sites should be provided separately;
 
ii. the report should consider and mention the Rural Development Regulations;
 
iii. stating the causes of the poor condition of many of the freshwater features would inform the work undertaken under the Water Framework Directive
 
iv. two versions of the report were needed, one for internal use which would focus on improving the monitoring and setting out the learning points for the future; the second for external use which would present the results of the monitoring;
 
v. Committee also considered it would be desirable to draw out from the report its main conclusions and recommendations for conservation-related action and relay these to Government
 
9.5 Committee noted the paper and agreed the next steps. Committee expressed their appreciation to Dr. Williams for an informative presentation.
 
10. Outcomes of the Ramsar Convention's Ninth Conference of the Parties (JNCC 05 N07)
 
10.1 The paper was presented to Committee for information..
 
10.2 Committee were informed that this paper provided initial outcomes and more detailed papers would follow.
 
10.3 Committee noted the paper and were requested to raise any issues with staff outside the meeting.
 
 
11. Report on the Convention of migratory Species (JNCC 05 N08)
 
11.1 The paper was presented to Committee for information.
 
11.2 Committee were informed that Professor Galbraith had chaired the Scientific Council for two terms but had now stepped down as Chair. Committee expressed their thanks to Professor Galbraith for his great contribution to the work of the Council.
 
11.3 Committee noted the paper and were requested to raise any issues with staff outside the meeting.
 
 
12. An update on JNCC's work on the Ecosystem approach and the UK Clearing House Mechanism (JNCC 05 N06)
 
12.1 The paper was presented to Committee for information.
 
12.2 Committee noted the paper and were requested to raise any issues with staff outside the meeting.
 
13. Report from the Process Working Group(JNCC 05 N05)
 
13.1 The paper was presented to Committee for information to inform them of the work taken forward by the Process Working Group, including the relationship management strategy, Committee development and corporate governance issues. The paper also presented to Committee the Terms of Reference for the Group.
 
13.2 Committee noted the paper and the Terms of Reference. Committee were invited to address any comments to the Chair of the Group outside the meeting.
 

14. Any other business

 
14.1 One item was raised relating to energy.
 
14.2 Mr. Steer explained that the JNCC had been commissioned by the DTI to advise them on energy issues. Mr. Steer requested that the country agencies work together with JNCC on this issue and in particular consultation with Chief Executives in the agencies was important to ensure effective co-ordination.
.