Importance of Biodiversity highlighted as Duty Report is approved by Committee
4th November 2020
The Highland Council's Economy and Infrastructure Committee members have approved a report which highlights the actions taken by the Council to further the conservation of biodiversity.
The Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 requires public bodies in Scotland to produce a publicly available report every three years.
The Biodiversity Duty Report, which is structured around actions taken, highlights the variety of work undertaken by the Council over the last 3 years to connect people and their environment.
Guidelines and policies to protect biodiversity across the region are at the core of the Highland-wide local development plan. Planning guidelines also encourage the creation, retention and enhancement of green networks within the Highland built environment.
The Council's Access Officers work with communities to develop and manage local footpath networks and the wider Environment Team, that includes two ecologists and two forestry officers, plays a key role in providing environmental advice and services to the council.
Examples of work to actively protecting biodiversity include the team’s involvement with the Inverness Westlink project, the development of the new council offices in Fort William, a dune restoration on Sutherland and Caithness beaches and progress made to create the Flow Country World Heritage Site.
Since the West Link project works started the team have carried out ecological surveys and monitoring, especially during the canal draining works, and arranged for bird and bat boxes to be installed along with a badger tunnel to allow continued use of the riverside woodlands. Controls were also put in place to prevent the spread of invasive species at the site.
In Fort William a number of special landscaping measures have been incorporated as part of the project to create the new council offices on the site of the former Achintore school. This has included work to make an informal woodland setting around the building with low maintenance areas of wild flowers and the planting of more native trees.
Dune restoration work has been undertaken at Achmelvich Beach in Sutherland and at Dunnet Head beach in Caithness. This includes the planting of marran grass and monitoring to ensure that it becomes established.
The Council is a member of the Peatlands Partnership and is actively involved in work to confirm Country World Heritage Site status. Progress forward includes the hosting of 151 events in the communities to raise awareness, the training of over 270 volunteers to carry out conservation works and council staff have provided support for community consultation and the development for the bid which is now on a UNESCO nomination list.
Chair of the Committee, Cllr Trish Robertson said: "These are just some of the excellent work going on. Since our last Duty Report we have declared a climate and ecological emergency and as a result our services across the Council are increasingly recognising the importance of biodiversity and looking at new ways to manage their assets for the benefit of the environment."
"The Duty Report not only gives details of all the work carried out but I think it clearly demonstrates the importance given to considering the impact on our environment when it comes to everything we do.
“All these measures we have, and will continue to put in place, can contribute to the creation of ecological networks and increase awareness, use and care of the natural environment."
The Highland Council has welcomed clarification from the Scottish Government that hotels are eligible for the Business Restriction Grant. As hotel restaurants and bars follow the same rules as other restaurants and bars with last entry at 21:30 and closure by 22:30, they have now been included as eligible businesses to receive grant from this scheme.
Members of The Highland Council's City of Inverness Area Committee have today agreed a proposed £4,786,000 investment in council housing for 2021-22. The one-year Inverness Area Housing Revenue Account (HRA) Capital Programme is part of the Highland wide HRA Capital Plan for 2021-22 which will see over £15m invested in improving the housing stock across the region.
The Leader of The Highland Council Margaret Davidson and Chair of the Brexit Working Group Jimmy Gray welcomed the Scottish Government's position paper on the replacement for European Structural Investment Funds. This paper was as a result of a wide consultation process in which the Highlands & Islands made a significant contribution towards.
The category B listed suspension Infirmary footbridge in Inverness which traverses the River Ness between Ness Walk and Ness Bank may need to close for public safety until The Highland Council considers and secures funding for necessary repairs. This was the message that the Council's Roads Operations Manager, John Taylor informed Members of the City of Inverness Area Committee this week.
A new useful guide has been produced to provide people across the Highlands with information and advice on the financial and other support that is available to them. The Highland Council, along with NHS Highland Public Health, Independent Food Aid Network and the Trussell Trust, have brought a wide range of relevant financial advice and support with contact details together in a user-friendly format aimed at people who are struggling to make ends meet.
Dr Tim Allison, Director of Public Health for NHS Highland, opened today's meeting with a presentation on Covid-19, including a Highland perspective. Cllr John Finlayson, Chair of the Committee, said: "I want to take this opportunity to thank Dr Allison for his informative presentation on the virus that he delivered to Committee this morning." The presentation began by providing a brief background to Covid-19 before then providing an explanation of how the virus transmits between individuals and the presence of coronavirus in the Highland region.
At today's meeting (18 November) of the Council's Education Committee, Members were provided an update on the ongoing rollout of 1140 hours of funded ELC provision in settings across Highland. A report to the Committee outlined that of the 241 settings across the region, 202 Highland settings will be delivering 1140 hours by spring 2021.
The Highland Council is today (17 November 2020) launching a consultation giving the community until 12 March 2021 to comment on the proposed contents of the Common Good Fund Asset Register for Wick. The Highland Council does not currently hold a Common Good Fund for the former Royal Burgh of Wick.
This week, The Scottish Government has confirmed that The Highland Council area will again be placed into Protection Level One in The Scottish Government's 5 tier framework. This means our communities will for now continue to able to operate with fewer restrictions for our hospitality, retail and leisure sectors than other parts of the country.
More than 1,250 new teachers and support staff have been recruited as a result of £80 million of support announced in the summer. Education Secretary John Swinney pledged the ring-fenced package of funding to help local authorities' recruitment for the re-opening of schools.