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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."

 

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