Parish councils vary enormously in the skills and resources available to them for engaging with nature recovery. Of the 55 we have spoken to, some have only one or two parish councillors who want to push the work forward, while in others, the entire council is committed to nature recovery. The most active will have formed a working group, often bringing in the support of a local landowner or community group.
The challenge for the Oxfordshire Treescape Project is to find a way to support all parish councils, at whatever stage of the journey they find themselves, on our very limited resources. We think the answer might be on the one hand to support those who are furthest ahead to create a nature recovery strategy for their whole parish, and on the other ensure that every council we have worked with is kept informed of the latest developments in this fast-moving space. In this way we can support the pioneers, while also encouraging every council to progress further at least to some extent.
Our idea is to make it as easy as possible for a parish to create and adopt a nature recovery plan by giving them a comprehensive package of support. The package is currently in trial with 3 neighbouring parishes – Charlbury, Finstock and Fawler – before being made more widely available.
WHAT’S INCLUDED IN THE PACKAGE We think any nature recovery plan should include:
A register of the most valuable existing natural assets in the parish
The best opportunities for introducing new treescapes
A plan of how existing and new assets will be managed.
The support elements we plan to provide over and above our treescape opportunity report are:
A template for a nature recovery plan, suggesting the broad content such a plan should include, and the process to go through to create, adopt and evaluate the plan. This includes extensive consultation with farmers and landowners and other stakeholders.
A set of land ownership and land manager maps for the parish. This is to help the parish council know who the landowners and parish councils are in their community so they can go on to engage with them.
A desktop report identifying the parish’s existing threatened species and highest value habitats and their management needs. This can be used to create a register of these assets and a management plan.
Access to a new LandApp package, that allows parishes to create their own nature recovery maps online. Both the existing natural assets and our treescape opportunities are available in the App, allowing parish councils to pick the opportunities they are most interested to create their own opportunity maps and to build a natural asset register.
Developing a nature recovery plan is no easy task, and we expect each council to need a great deal of support. We think that it could take a parish council as long as a year to develop a nature recovery plan, but once adopted it will create a firm basis for sustained and long-term action on biodiversity loss and climate change as we move forward to 2050.