A new ecological information resource has been launched in Cumbria to help planners and developers assess the impact of developments on the natural environment and promote sustainable and environmentally-sensitive practices.
The Biodiversity Evidence Base for Cumbria is an online resource which pulls together information about natural habitats, geology and protected species for the first time. It has been financed by Cumbria County Council, Allerdale Borough Council, Carlisle City Council, Copeland Borough Council, Eden District Council, South Lakeland District Council and the Lake District National Park Authority.
For the first time we have a detailed and up-to-date picture of the countyís natural environment. This has been made possible with specialist information and advice provided by groups such as the Cumberland Bat Group, RSPB, Save our Squirrels, Westmorland and Furness Bat Group, Cumbria Wildlife Trust and Natural England. It has taken over 18 months to develop.
The package includes statements on Key Habitats and Species in Cumbria. These provide conservation and planning advice, and map the known distributions across the county. They include the barn owl, natterjack toad, red squirrel, hen harrier, small blue butterfly, great crested newt, otter and water vole, and a range of habitats from bogs, hedgerows and grasslands to orchards, woodlands and heathland.
Until now, planners and developers could not easily access necessary biodiversity information to assess the impact of developments such as new housing, roads and business parks. The Cumbria Biodiversity Evidence Base will enable them to have this information at their fingertips.
This information will help us avoid damage to wildlife, improve wildlife habitats and guide good design which will help enhance our quality of life.
As well as ensuring that new developments don't have an unduly detrimental effect on natural habitats, the information will also encourage developers to introduce wildlife-friendly measures into their plans, such as nestboxes for barn owls, bat bricks which allow access to roof voids, wider hedgerows, and native woodland planting.
Judy Palmer, Cumbria County Councilís ecologist, said:
"This new tool will be a valuable resource to protect and enhance the county's natural resources while at the same time guiding economic development and activity. It won't give planners and developers an instant 'yes' or 'no' answer to whether a new scheme is suitable, but it will provide them with the background information they need when assessing new schemes and also encourage an innovative and wildlife-friendly approach to new developments.
"Cumbria has an exceptionally rich and diverse range of habitats and species throughout our countryside, cities, towns and villages. The compilation of this new information about these habitats and species will help everyone to have a better understanding of the conservation issues, how to avoid harm and how to make a positive contribution for the future. We will continue to build on this information to make it even more comprehensive."
Experts from Carlisle City Council's Tullie House Museum were instrumental in helping to compile the key species list and the mapping work. Stephen Hewitt, Keeper of Natural Sciences said:
"This package is based on a great deal of information from many different sources. Not least of these are the many local people and amateur naturalists around the county who provide information on their wildlife sightings to the Museum. It is great to see their voluntary efforts bear fruit in a way that should enable improved conservation of our wildlife and countryside"
To visit the Biodiversity Evidence Base for Cumbria go to http://www.lakelandwildlife.co.uk/
Please note: Cumbria County Council's media team telephone numbers have now changed.
Media enquiries to Gareth Cosslett, News Manager on 01228 226332