Working with other organisations, groups and communities - projects to improve and protect Somerset's wildlife
The term Biodiversity means ‘variety of life’ on earth. It includes all living organisms including species, ecosystems and genetic diversity. Biodiversity is fundamental for the earth’s life support system.
Somerset has some outstanding wildlife areas including:
Somerset’s wildlife heritage also includes a large number of other rare habitats and species, so it is important for us to protect them.
Like other public bodies we have a statutory duty to conserve biodiversity. To carry out this work we work in partnership with other organisations, voluntary groups and local communities on projects to improve and protect Somerset’s wildlife.
Examples of some of the ways in which we work to conserve biodiversity are shown in the other parts of this page.
Somerset County Council, in partnership with Friends of the Earth and Somerset Wildlife Trust, has published a county-wide pollinator action plan – a scheme to help secure the future of pollinators in Somerset. In doing so, Somerset has been added to the ever growing list of counties upholding their responsibilities to comply with the National Pollinator Strategy, helping pollinating insects survive and thrive long into the future.
The importance of pollinators to Somerset cannot be overstated; in the UK alone there are over 1500 species of insect that pollinate our crops and wildflowers, including bees, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles and wasps. These species are integral to the functioning of our ecosystems; however, sadly these species are under threat.
There is no single cause for the declines of pollinators, with declining population trends the accumulative result of habitat loss, climate change, disease and the use of pesticides, with neonicotinoids found to have particularly harmful effects.
Nationally, pollinators are estimated to contribute over £600 million per year to the UK economy through the pollination of commercial crops and if present declines continue, it is likely to cost an estimated £1.8 billion per year for the hand pollination of commercial plant species.
Indra Francesco, co-ordinator of Glastonbury Friends of the Earth, who has been campaigning for a local pollinator strategy said:
“Local councils with their wide ranging responsibilities, services and land holdings are in a unique position to help safeguard our bees and other native pollinators. We’re delighted that Somerset County Council is developing a Local Pollinator Action Plan, which must protect and enhance our bee-friendly habitats and spaces and put the county at the forefront of action to protect these precious creatures. If there are no bees, there’s no cider.”
The Somerset Pollinator Action Plan aims to outline and implement measures to combat the stresses that pollinators are faced with in Somerset by working with departments throughout the county and district councils to re-think the way in which we work. This will include a shift in practical methods, from the traditional, to ways in which pollinators and the environment will benefit, which if carried out using proven examples from elsewhere across the UK should save costs whilst benefiting pollinating insects.
Somerset County Council’s County Ecologist, Simon Breeze said “Focusing on a county approach, whilst using effective measures that have proven to work nationally; this scheme will investigate and target the challenges to pollinators found in Somerset, delivering effective and targeted mitigation and habitat creation measures. With a unique mosaic of species rich habitats, public open spaces and productive farmland found throughout Somerset we are challenged with ensuring that there is a brighter future for Somerset’s residents and its charismatic insect life”.
Steve Mewes, Policies and Campaigns Manager, Somerset Wildlife Trust said ‘Somerset is a county whose economic health is inexorably linked to large scale crop pollination, and not only this, our wildlife food chains are dependent on good numbers of invertebrates – including pollinators. We need to ensure that we are delivering, optimising and connecting habitats and environments where pollinator populations can grow and thrive. And that means not only ensuring council owned land and public spaces are carefully managed, but also giving advice to home owners across the county as to what we can all do in our own back garden to help. We hope the pollinator action plan will ensure we are doing as much as we can for these very important species.”
We own two Local Nature Reserves – Screech Owl (near Bridgwater) and Silk Mills (Taunton) where people can connect with nature and benefit from exercise in the natural environment. You can find out more about all Somerset’s current Local Nature Reserves by visiting Natural England website.
Our ecologists work with planners to ensure that legislation and guidance to protect wildlife is embedded within the planning process. The county’s ecological networks have been mapped working with the Somerset Wildlife Trust to help the preparation of local development plans. Where developments might affect internationally important sites our ecologists conduct a Habitats Regulations Assessment to ascertain whether proposals are harmful or not. If European Protected Species or other legally protected wildlife is at risk our ecologists advise on the best way to safeguard these. Where harm cannot be avoided or mitigation put in place to minimise damage our ecologists evaluate the extent of the biodiversity to be lost and what is needed to compensate through biodiversity off-setting.
If you are thinking of applying to us for planning permission you should be aware that we may need certain information on biodiversity that could be affected by the intended development. Determination of your application may be delayed or permission refused if this information is not submitted. The type of information that may be required and the circumstances when it is needed are set out in Somerset Requirements for information on Biodiversity and Geological Conservation to be submitted with applications for planning permission. The document includes guidance on when protected species surveys will be needed.
We have a Highways Biodiversity Manual which can be found in Downloads. This determines how we manage the land around roads because verges provide valuable corridors and homes for wildlife.
Where opportunities arise and resources allow we also try to reduce wildlife roadside casualties in dangerous locations, for example by creating tunnels under new roads so that wildlife can cross safely.
We encourage volunteering and there are many ways you can get involved in looking after or just enjoying Somerset’s wonderful natural environment and wildlife.
Find out what’s available in your area and visit and enjoy these places, such as Local Nature Reserves, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Country Parks. They often hold events, talks or walks, such as bat walks, bluebell walks.
Volunteer to help manage a wildlife site or nature reserve. These sites depend on volunteers and would welcome your help.
If you own some land, do your bit to improve the landscape and help wildlife by planting some native trees or hedges, or perhaps an orchard.
Improve your garden for wildlife – you can find a few ideas of simple things you can do in Downloads or you can join a local gardening group.
Contact: County Ecologist, Somerset County Council, County Hall, Taunton TA1 4DY
Phone: 01823 358118
Opening hours: Monday to Thursday: 8.30am to 5pm, Friday 8.30am to 4.30pm, Saturday and Sunday closed
Somerset Pollinator Action Plan
Somerset Biodiversity Leaflet
‘Wild Somerset’ a Biodiversity Strategy
Somerset Highways Biodiversity Manual
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