Worcestershire Local Sites Partnership
Worcestershire has a rich and diverse countryside which includes areas of international, national, county and local importance.
Worcestershire has to offer:
- Four National Nature Reserves (NNR)
- Two Special Areas of Conservation (SAC's)
- 114 Sites of Scientific Interest (SSSI's)
- 553 Local Sites (LS's)
- 44 Roadside Verge Nature Reserves (RVNR's)
What is a local site?
The system of statutory designations (Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Special Areas of Conservation etc) covers over one million hectares of land in the UK. However, there are many sites that are of significant local conservation value that fall outside of statutory protection. The Local Sites system enables the listing of these sites and their recognition within local government policy. The Local Sites system covers sites of biological and geological value and sites may be listed for their significance for local ecology (Local Wildlife Sites), geology (Local Geological Sites) or both. The listing of a site within the Local Sites system confers no statutory (legal) protection.
There are currently 553 Local Sites listed in Worcestershire covering a range of habitats. Most sites are privately owned and the Local Sites Partnership endeavours to work with owners to ensure appropriate management of the sites and that their value is maintained.
Despite their importance there is no dedicated funding allocated to the survey, monitoring or management of Local Sites. This lack of resources is an issue that urgently needs to be addressed.
Guidance on identification, selection and managing a Local Sites system has been published by Defra:
Download Defra's Local Sites Guidance
Who is involved in the Worcestershire Local Sites Partnership?
The Worcestershire Local Sites Partnership comprises the seven local authorities, Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, Earth Heritage Trust, Worcestershire Biological Records Centre, Natural England, Forestry Commission, Environment Agency, Kemerton Conservation Trust, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, Country Land and Business Association and the National Farmers Union. The Partnership currently meets twice a year.
What does the Partnership do?
The Partnership is responsible for approving any new sites put forward for listing as county Local Sites and then ensuring the endorsement/adoption of those sites by their own organisations.
The Partnership is responsible for ensuring that reporting on Local Site condition is undertaken on an annual basis to contribute to the monitoring of progress against national and local indicators and Worcestershire State of the Environment targets.
Roadside Verge Nature Reserves
The Roadside Verge Nature Reserve (RVNR) project is coordinated by the County Council's Greenspace Team in conjunction with the Highways Service and Ecology Service. The purpose of the project is to identify, protect and manage verges of significant conservation interest.
It has been estimated that 80% of Worcestershire's botanical diversity occurs on roadside verges. Many road verges are as old, if not older than the roads themselves. Roadside verges are a haven for plants, fungi and invertebrates that are becoming increasingly scarce in the wider countryside. Some of Worcestershire's rarest species exist on road verges, including deptford pink, tower mustard and spreading bellflower.
RVNR are designated following an ecological survey and consideration of other factors, such as road safety. A RVNR should meet one or more of the following selection criteria:
- Supports a species which is classified as critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable, near threatened or Nationally scarce in the National or County Red Data Book or very rare, rare, very scarce or scarce (as defined by Day 2001).
- It supports a good example of a plant community that represents a habitat characteristic of Worcestershire or is a Biodiversity Action Plan Priority Habitat.
- It supports any animal species protected under European or National legislation or supports a rare animal species or rich community of animals in the context of the county's fauna.
- It is a verge identified as a Special Wildlife Site (County Site), and therefore, via another set of criteria, has been identified for its ecological significance in a county context
There are clearly many more road verges within the county that would meet the criteria and as such could also be included on the register however logistical and financial limitations restrict the number of sites on the register.
RVNR are marked by red and white posts, with an information plaque. Each verge has its own specific management regime developed to benefit the special wildlife of that verge. Verges are monitored regularly to ensure that their wildlife value is being maintained or enhanced.
National Biodiversity Indicator 197
The management of Local Sites is key to achieving biodiversity targets with biodiversity being ultimately lost or conserved at the local level. NI197 is a National Indicator of the proportion of Local Sites where positive conservation management is being implemented. Local Sites include Special Wildlife Sites (SWS's) and Important Geological Sites (now known as Local GS's). The indicator measures the performance of Local Authorities for biodiversity by assessing the implementation of positive conservation management of Local Sites. Positive conservation management is management that contributes to maintaining or enhancing the features of interest for which a site has been selected.
Assessing the extent of positive management identifies sites where positive management is lacking and helps to focus the efforts of the Local Site Partnership in ensuring Local Sites are managed and their biodiversity value are maintained or enhanced.