Venue: Council Chamber, Surrey Heath House, Knoll Road, Camberley, GU15 3HD. View directions
Apologies for Absence
Apologies were received from Guildford Borough Council, Cllr Chris Turrell Bracknell Forest Borough Council (Cllr Michael Brossard attend as substitute).
Cllr John Furey drew attention to the proposal referred to in Paragraph 4.6, which had been proposed, seconded and agreed, but had not been reflected in the decisions made in the resolution.
In addition Cllr Furey referred to Paragraph 5.2 which indicated that Natural England would circulate an updated note on CIL to the Partnership. Whilst he acknowledged that there was a report on the agenda, he considered that it was important for the Partnership, as part of that report, to understand what was outstanding and what was likely to be coming forward.
Resolved that the minutes of the previous meeting, held on 25 February 2015, be agreed subject to
(a) the addition to Paragraph 4.9 as follows:
v) 10 seasonal wardens be recruited for 2016/17 and 2017/18 and the prospective expenditure to be met from the Endowment Fund.
(b) An updated note on CIL be circulated to the Partnership via the Chairman and the Thames Basin Heath Officers.
Jenny Wadham, Principal Accountant at Hampshire presented an update report on the financial position of the Thames Basin Heaths Strategic Access Management and Monitoring (SAMM).
As at 31 March 2015, the Endowment Account balance had stood at £1.820m, and an additional £430,340 had been held in the Maintenance Account to pay for project expenditure. It had been projected that a further £790,000 would be added to the Endowment Account in the 2015/16 financial year, giving an anticipated total of £2.610m available to be invested. Based on current projections of income and expenditure, the balance on the Endowment Account would increase to £4.780m by 31 March 2018.
The total income received by the Administrative Body to 31 March 2015 had been £2.911m, set against amounts paid out to cover costs of £660,338. The actual tariff income received in the year to 31 March 2015 had been £1.402m, which had been significantly higher than the forecast income.
The Partnership received details of the actual project costs for 2014/15, and a detailed breakdown of the projected project costs for future years.
Full information on the projections for the 2015/16 financial year and budgets and plans for 2016/17 onwards would be covered in the update from Natural England. However overall it was projected that approximately £790,000 would be added to the Endowment Fund. The projected costs for 2015/16 equated to 27% of the total tariff income, and a net increase to the Maintenance Account balance of just under £33,000 was projected.
In the SAMM business plan it had been envisaged that approximately £1.6m annual tariff income would be required, to meet the ongoing annual expenditure costs, whilst allowing for 70% of total income to be transferred to the Endowment Fund, to ensure the sustainability of the SAMM in perpetuity. It was noted that the projected tariff income for the 2016/17 and 2017/18 financial years was approximately £1.4m and £1.7m respectively.
The annual expenditure projections on an ongoing basis were approximately £427,000, following planned recruitment to four full time and ten seasonal wardens by March 2016, as agreed by the JSPB at the meeting on 18th December 2013. The ongoing annual expenditure projections were slightly lower than the level originally anticipated in the SAMM business plan of approximately £500,000 per annum, primarily because the full allocation of wardens had not been met. The four full time wardens were now in post, and the full ten seasonal wardens were planned to be in post for 2016/17.
The JSPB was reminded that under the terms of the SAMM agreement it had responsibility to review the value and performance of the Endowment Account on a regular basis. The agreement also envisaged that the management of the funds in the Endowment Account would be undertaken by an Independent Financial Advisor.
As a result the JSPB was asked to provide direction as to how and from whom the services of an independent financial advisor were to be procured in order to maximise the return achieved. It was noted ... view the full minutes text for item 3.
The JSPB received a spreadsheet setting out the annual monitoring information from the authorities. It was noted that, of the planning appeals impacted by the SPA, very few had been refused on SPA grounds alone as generally there mitigation measures were in place.
Simon Thompson reported that the project was currently fully staffed, with 4.4 FTE Wardens, an Education and Communication Officer, and Project Manager. As the necessary approvals for the recruitment of the ten seasonal wardens were now in place, it was anticipated they would be in post by March 2016. Three of the posts would be hosted externally, by Hampshire County Council, Surrey Wildlife Trust and Horsell Common Preservation Society, under a grant funding agreement with Natural England. The remaining seven would be employed directly by Natural England as short-term appointments.
The project was currently looking at options for alternative accommodation which would be suitable for the number of staff the project would have in 2016. DEFRA approval to rent a non-DEFRA estate office had been granted in principle, and discussions with a number of organisations regarding potential accommodation were proceeding. Further information would be provided to Members at the next meeting.
The Wardens and the Education and Communication Officer have met with each of the land managers of the particular areas of the SPA to highlight the locations on the site with highest visitor pressures, and agree any specific messages they wish the wardens to impart, prior to the commencement of wardening. Agreements for access licenses were, either in place or being finalised with a number of organisations. In all cases, other than the Crown Estate, it was expected that licenses would be in place ahead of the 2016 bird breeding season.
The warden output per month over the 2015 breeding bird season had been 295 on-site warden hours, 1110 people engaged and 176 leaflets issued. These figures were averages for the period from July to September inclusive, which was the period during which the warden team had been at full strength.
The Education and Communication Officer had focussed on communications for this first year as it was felt that it was very important to get the project identity established and to maximise public awareness of the project. The Education and Communication Officer, and the Wardens had also undertaken a programme of visits to all of the SANGs in the Thames Basin Heaths area. This programme included written details and photographs for each site which would be used to produce a SANGs directory and a series of SANGs leaflets, as well as be published on the internet.
It was reported that DEFRA rules effectively prevented the Natural England from having a website as it allowed a zero spend for this purpose. However Horsell Common Preservation Society had offered to host a website on behalf of the project. This was still in the early stages of development but should be on-line by the end of March. It was intended that the site be used to promote the project’s key messages and also to promote all the SANGs sites. It was intended that whilst the site was technically hosted alongside the Horsell Common Preservation Society site, it would have its own distinctive identity and contain links to the relevant pages ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
Interim Review of Suitable Alternative Greenspace in the Thames Basin Heaths
Natural England presented a paper which set out a summary of the findings and recommendations of the Interim Review of Suitable Alternative Greenspace in the Thames Basin Heaths.
The meeting was reminded that the methodology for the review had been presented to the JSPB Members in February 2015, and Footprint Ecology had been commissioned to undertake the review. The draft report had been completed in June 2015 and following a consultation period, a significant response had been received with detailed comments received from the majority of local planning authorities and many of the project partners.
The main findings of the report were:
· Data available from 27 SANGs suggested they were absorbing a high level of use, but that it was not possible to be sure if those people would otherwise visit the SPA.
· There was no clear evidence that SANGs use had either increased or decreased over time.
· Ratio of dogs per person on SANGs was broadly similar to that on the SPA.
· Approximately 75% of SPA visitors arrived by car, which was replicated by some SANGs
· Eight SANGs had at least 90% of visits lasting less than an hour (compared to 64% on SPA).
· Across SANGs as a whole there was little difference in visit frequency compared to the SPA, but some sites had particularly high numbers of daily visitors.
· A number of SANGs had relatively high proportion of visitors also using SPA.
· Route lengths on SANGs were significantly shorter than on the SPA, suggesting SANGs were not necessarily providing the kind of routes visitors were using on the SPA.
· Postcode data showed that the SPA drew people from further afield than SANGs, and that in general larger SANGs drew visitors from a wider area.
· Total SANGs area was equivalent to 11% of the SPA (8% discounted).
· Promotion of SANGs on the web was poor.
· The modelled draw of SANGs and the SPA (based on nearest parking) indicated that SANGs and SPA overlapped well.
· Gaps in current SANGs provision appeared to be between Farnborough and Woking, the northern half of Guildford and towards the west of the SPA.
· The distribution of developments for which SANGs had been provided suggested that there were areas where the development appeared too far from the SANGs.
The main recommendations in the report were as follows:
· Future focus should be on larger SANGs.
· The path networks beyond SANGs boundaries needed to be secured and maintained.
· Promotion of SANGs on the internet needed to be improved.
· SANGs guidelines needed to be clearer on how to estimate additional capacity on sites with existing access.
· Guidelines for surveys for SANGs sites should be clear on frequency and methodology.
· Provision of long routes was important.
· All parts of walks should be available to dogs off leads
· The need for standardisation in the way LPAs recorded developments linked to SANGs.
· Recognition that it was likely that the effectiveness of SANGs would increase over time with access management warding and better promotion of SANGs..
It was noted that the SANGs ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
Date of Next Meeting
It was noted that, as agreed in Paragraph 3.10 above, it was likely that an additional meeting would be required before the scheduled meeting due in six months’ time. Dates would be notified to Members.