Agenda and minutes

Thames Basin Heaths Joint Strategic Partnership Board
Friday, 3rd March, 2017 10.00 am

Venue: Council Chamber, Surrey Heath House, Knoll Road, Camberley, GU15 3HD. View directions

Contact: Andrew Crawford 

Items
No. Item

1.

Minutes of Previous Meeting pdf icon PDF 69 KB

Minutes:

Attendance – It was noted that Councillor Gail Kingerley (Runnymede Borough Council), Georgina Pacey (Runnymede Borough Council) and Gail Wootton (Waverley Borough Council) had attended the previous meeting. It was agreed that the minutes be amended accordingly.

2.

SAMM Update pdf icon PDF 2 MB

Minutes:

SAMM Project Manager – Andrew Smith, Regional Manager for Natural England, reported that Simon Thompson would be leaving his post to take up a new challenge within the Organisation, project managing Natural England’s input into the expansion of Heathrow Airport.

 

The recruitment processes for the Project Manager post had commenced and Natural England would ensure that a proper handover period was factored into these arrangements. Simon Thompson would also accompany the new SAMM Project Manager to the first meeting of each body supported by the Manager post.

 

The Chairman thanked Simon for his considerable input to the SAMM project and for his full and informative reports to the Board.

 

Staffing – Simon Thompson reminded the Board that 6 full time wardens were supported by 6 seasonal wardens each year. 4 seasonal wardens had been appointed and were undergoing training, with a further 2 to be appointed.

 

Wardening – The project provided for a warden service on the SPA 7 days a week, from 7.30 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. (daylight hours permitting). In the previous year, this had amounted to over 1,000 hours on site and over 1,350 interactions. It was noted that the Autumn and Winter numbers were always lower than in Spring/Summer.

 

SANGs Visitor Surveys – As part of the monitoring role agreed in May 2016, SANGs surveys had been used at 16 sites during Autumn and Winter 2016/17. The results were being analysed and would be reported at the next Board meeting.

 

From the data already reviewed it appeared that positive indicators would include convenience, being close to home locations and well surfaced paths, whilst poor surfaces; particularly if they were waterlogged and insufficient dog waste bins on routes had a negative impact. It was considered that the installation of dry paths would encourage visitors away from SPA land towards SANGs.

 

In response to Member queries, Simon Thompson agreed to consider the inclusion in future surveys of a question on why people thought that SANGs had been created.

 

Action:

 

(i)            Report to next meeting on SANGs Visitors’ Survey analysis; and

 

(ii)          Consider including, in the next SANGs Survey, a question seeking peoples’ understanding of why SANGs had been created.

Access to MOD SPA Land – Access to MOD land was currently on an accompanied basis only. Negotiations with the MOD seemed to be moving forward and the Board would be updated on progress.

 

Action: Progress report to next JSPB meeting.

 

Access to Crown Estates Land – Simon Thompson reported that, despite attempts to engage with Crown Estates, that Body would not agree to Warden access to its land. Whilst local staff were very supportive, senior decision makers were blocking progress.

 

Action: Crown Estates to be invited to attend future meetings to explain their lack of cooperation.

 

Communications, Promotion and Events  -

 

(i)       Website – The Partnership website had gone live and could be accessed at www.tbhpartnership.org.uk .

 

(ii)      SANGs Directory – An A5 booklet entitled “Greenspace on your doorstep”, subtitled “Discover great places for circular walks  ...  view the full minutes text for item 2.

3.

Bird Survey Results pdf icon PDF 105 KB

Minutes:

Simon Thompson reported the findings of a 2016 bird survey on the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area, noting in particular that Nightjars had retained their numbers in comparison to previous years. Dartford Warblers had suffered a slight decline, but population numbers were still considered to be healthy. However, there was a notable decrease in the Woodlark population.

 

Ground nesting numbers peaked in 2014. Following a decline in 2015/16, a significant level of habitat management work had been undertaken by land managers, including changes to grazing regimes and woodland clearance, and, given the impact of habitat availability, it was hoped that improvements in numbers would be seen in future surveys.

It was considered that Nightjars had fared better because they were migratory birds and less habitat-dependent. It was, however, noted that while Nightjar numbers were slightly up on 2015, other trans- Saharan migrants, such as cuckoos, had declined in the same period.

 

The potential for larger sites to suffer under-recording was recognised and it was considered that the late frosts in early 2016 could have contributed to reductions recorded.

 

Although there were a number of similar surveys across the UK, most national data was about 10 years out of date and funding for national studies had effectively dried up. Simon Thompson suggested that comparable data was collected in Dorset. He agreed to link with Dorset colleagues and bring comparator data/trend information to the next meeting.

 

Members noted that, when the current arrangements had been put in place, habitat development had not been included as an area which could attract developer contributions. It was agreed that, at the next meeting, the Board should re-visit this decision, including a review of the basis for the original decision and a comparison of legal advice when the position was agreed and now.

 

Actions:

 

(i)            A report be submitted to the next meeting on comparator data/trend information from Dorset; and

 

(ii)           The original decision to exclude habitat development from attracting developer contributions be reviewed and a report submitted to the next meeting, including legal advice when the decision was taken and now.

 

4.

Financial Report pdf icon PDF 96 KB

Minutes:

Jenny Wadham, Principal Accountant from Hampshire County Council, presented an update on the financial position of the Thames Basin Heaths SAMM and seeking Board guidance on whether independent advisors should be appointed to invest some or all of the funds held within the Endowment account.

 

As at 31 March 2016, there was £2.693 million in the Endowment Fund, with £525,205 in the Maintenance Fund. It was projected that a further £1.857 would be added to the Endowment Fund in 2016/17and that the fund could rise to £7.058 million by 31 March 2019.

 

Jenny Wadham noted that, should the board be minded to invest monies generated in the 2016/17 financial year, a total of £4.550 million should be available.

 

Members noted that , whilst any balances remaining in the Maintenance Fund at the end of 2016/17 could be transferred to the Endowment Fund, this option would need further consideration.

 

Councillor Mike Goodman reported that CCL, independent financial advisors, already worked with Hampshire County Council on investment advice. He reminded Members that it had previously been agreed that he, Councillor Moira Gibson and Councillor David Hilton be tasked with investigation investment options. He proposed that this small sub-group meet with CCL and Jenny Wadham to consider investment options and to report back to the next Board meeting.

 

Resolved, that

 

(i)            The current financial position and projected financial position for the 3 years to 31 March 2019 be noted;

 

(ii)          The proposed transfer of any unused Maintenance Fund balances to the Endowment Fund be deferred for further consideration; and

 

(iii)         A Sub-Group comprising Councillors Moira Gibson, Mike Goodman and David Hilton, be authorised to meet with CCL Investment Advisors and Jenny Wadham of Hampshire County Council, to consider and report back to the next meeting on investment options.

 

5.

Date of Next Meeting

Minutes:

It was agreed that proposals on a date/time for the next meeting be circulated by e-mail.