I thought I'd share this here, for anyone who wasn't able to make it to the ALERC conference and AGM yesterday.
Early this year I attended a meeting of the Northern England & Scottish border LERCs, in Newcastle. It was great to hear first-hand about the work LERCs are doing up there, and challenges they are facing – many thanks to Paul Stevens for the invite.
In Scotland the SBIF Review has been a major focus. Tom Hunt provided input to the SBIF Review workshops and Tom & I have been in regular contact with our members in Scotland, in order to understand local perspectives. I've also been in dialogue with Ellen Wilson as the SBIF Review has progressed – to ensure the views and practical experience of LERCs are well represented. I understand that publication of the final SBIF Review recommendations is imminent!
In Northern Ireland, ALERC has worked closely with the Centre for Environmental Data and Recording (CEDaR) on several projects. ALERC was commissioned by CEDaR to produce some practical guidance on GDPR compliance – which was also shared with ALERC members. Like all our members, ALERC also had to go through the process of ensuring we are GDPR compliant.
CEDaR – through Pauline Campbell – has involved itself in the work of ALERC with much enthusiasm. It's great that Pauline, along with Lizzy Peat from Hampshire Biodiversity Information Centre, has volunteered to lead a session at the upcoming NBN Conference, highlighting the fantastic work that LERCs do.
In Wales, ALERC Director Adam Rowe highlighted the value of LERC services through his excellent presentation at the NBN conference. ALERC also commented on revisions to Planning Policy Wales.
In England, ALERC has been working closely with Marina Flamank on renewal of the EA data licence agreements – led by Ian Egerton. ALERC also responded to the government consultation on the National Planning Policy Framework, which had a good outcome in terms of clearer policy in relation to Local Wildlife Sites.
In January this year we held a two-day Directors meeting in Birmingham, to review priorities and how ALERC can best structure itself to deliver the things that are important to our members. We decided to consolidate our efforts in three main work areas:
Communications & Influencing – a lot of background work has been completed in preparation for replacing the ALERC website.
Data & Technical – has been developing ideas around improving national data exchange and the proposal for an ALERC Exchange System (AXS); as well as being involved in the Recorder 6 work.
Business Development – did a piece of work calculating the value of the LERC network, showing our sector leveraging in £7.5 million per annum across the UK: which represents a massive investment in local biodiversity data. Ian Egerton has also provided the membership with information on upcoming opportunities for investment in Ancient Woodland Inventory. The Business Development group also worked hard to influence the systems NBN Trust has put in place to manage usage of non-commercial data on the NBN Atlas, and continues to monitor how this is working in practice.
Accreditation – Hannah Cook is picking this up, as a strand of ALERC’s Business Development work. We need to look at how we meet our strategic objectives around accreditation, to continue to maintain confidence in our sector.
ALERC has had an active role this year in representing LERCs and promoting LERC services including written submissions to various consultations; notably the House of Lords inquiry into the NERC Act and Natural England, where our points were picked up by the Lords in oral evidence.
ALERC, through Steve Whitbread, also provided input to the HLF consultation via the workshop events and a written response.
Adam Rowe has continued to represent LERCs on the NBN Atlas Steering Group, where he has been joined by Ian Carle. Since the NBN Board Review there have been some significant changes in NBNT's strategic direction, as outlined in the recent NBNT announcement. In my conversations with Jo Judge she's been very clear that she wants to see NBNT, and the NBN Atlas, develop in ways that are mutually beneficial for LERCs and the rest of the Network. Some of the ALERC Directors will be meeting with NBN Trust on 14 November, to discuss how this could work.
I've also picked up representation of LERCs on the Biodiversity Data Users Group, which allows for informal exchange of information between CIEEM, NBNT, ALERC and other organisations representing data users. This has provided some insights into how things are developing in relation to District Level Licensing, Net Gain, Nature Recovery Networks, etc.
Steve Whitbread & Tom Hunt have also represented LERCs in initial discussions around the next State of Nature report. There's potentially an opportunity here to increase the profile of local data, and the work of LERCs.
As of today’s AGM, we are saying goodbye to some long-standing Directors: Gary Lewis, who rejoined the Board a couple of years ago after a previous stint as Chair, is stepping down. Ian Egerton, who has been leading the Business Development Group, is also stepping down. This leaves us without representation of the South West LERCs on the ALERC Board, so if any members in the South West would like to get more involved in the work of ALERC, either as a Director or through one of the working groups, please do get in touch.
Nicky Court, one of ALERC’s founding Directors, is also stepping down. But I am very pleased (and relieved!) that she has agreed to stay on as Hon. Treasurer.
Many thanks to Gary, Ian and Nicky for all the effort and energy they have put into ALERC over the years.
Happily, we have had a new cohort of Directors joining the Board this year, including Pauline Campbell & Ian Carle (Feb 2018), Hannah Cook (June 2018) and Deb Muscat (Sept 2018). Mandy Rudd is also returning to the Board, as of today’s AGM, after her sabbatical.
So ALERC is in a good position to continue working hard, on behalf of our members, for another year.
Many thanks to all of our members for your support, and the contributions you make to our community, whether that’s through the ALERC working groups, regional groups, or engaging with ALERC’s Knowledge Hub.
I'd be interested in your thoughts on any of this! Clare