Agenda item

Oxfordshire Local Nature Partnership Update

To consider a report to the Future Oxfordshire Partnership providing an update on the progress of the Oxfordshire Local Nature Partnership, highlighting areas of focus for the Partnership moving forward and setting out points for the development of the Local Nature Recovery Strategy.


The Panel considered a report to the Future Oxfordshire Partnership providing an update on the progress of the Oxfordshire Local Nature Partnership (ONLP). This not only included information on the ONLP’s areas of focus, but also set out details relating to the process for the development of a Local Nature Recovery Strategy (LNRS). Matt Whitney, Oxfordshire Local Nature Partnership Manager, gave a presentation (details of which can be found here) highlighting some of the key areas of focus within the report.


In discussion, the Panel noted that there appeared to be a deficit of national legislation and guidance relating to natural capital investment. Members expressed the view that the ONLP should be working with other local authorities and nature partnerships to ensure a consistent, evidence-based approach was being taken across the country. (Particular attention was drawn to the issue of carbon credits, where a lack of effective oversight and measurement had created several problems). The importance of cross boundary working was also emphasised in relation to the issue of nature routing arising from development.  


Officers confirmed to the Panel that the ONLP were in regular contact with other local nature partnerships – in particular as part of the Southeast Nature Partnership group. They also stressed that Oxfordshire was well-placed in comparison to many other areas as it already had biodiversity net gain policies in place in advance of national requirements. In addition, it was mentioned that work is currently underway to develop a shared evidence base of data to support progress in relation to the issue of nature routing arising from development. While the national issues around carbon credits were also acknowledged by officers, they highlighted that there were good examples of best practice carbon credit schemes within Oxfordshire – including on the Blenheim Estate.


The Panel expressed concerns around the matrices and formulas used to assess biodiversity net gain. Members suggested that in some cases the independence of consultants commissioned by developers to provide site assessments were questionable and that, therefore, such evaluations should be engaged and undertaken by independent third parties. Officers accepted that the biodiversity net gain metrics were imperfect but emphasised that in Oxfordshire there was access to independent consultants.


The Panel was also informed that the national guidance made it clear that individual council local plans should both feed into and influence the drafting of Local Nature Recovery Strategies (and vice-versa).


Anxieties were expressed by some members of the Panel that the level of funding committed to the ONLP was not sufficient to support its ambitions. Officers made clear that, while additional resourcing would always be welcome, the primary role of the ONLP was to facilitate, enable, champion and coordinate action in relation to nature-based activities – it was never intended to directly deliver projects.


The Chair commented on the importance of youth engagement as the work of the OLNP moved forward.


In conclusion, the Scrutiny Panel welcomed the update and supported the recommendations set out in the report.



RESOLVED: The Panel recommended to the Future Oxfordshire Partnership that it ask the Oxfordshire Local Nature Partnership to take the following matters into account as the Partnership develops.


1.     The need for continued joint working and coordination with organisations in neighbouring counties given the cross border nature of biodiversity corridors.


2.     The need for the introduction of a performance matrix to set a base line by which to monitor and assess the natural economy effectiveness of the outcomes of the Local Nature Partnership.


3.     That ways of levering in the involvement of youth organisations as part of the Local Nature Partnership’s work be fully explored.


4.     That it recognise the challenges around the independence of consultants commissioned to undertake Biodiversity Net Gain assessments.


5.     The need for adequate funding to support the high level of aspiration of the Local Nature Partnership, whilst recognising the importance of not competing with partners for limited funds.

Supporting documents: