At the main committee meeting, updates were received from each of the UK Biosphere Reserves:
Brighton and Lewes Downs (BLDBR)
BLDBR submitted a detailed funding application on ‘BioCultural Heritage Tourism’ to the EU Interreg Channel programme , working in partnership with North Devon BR (lead) and 2 French Biospheres.
A third phase of delivering our innovative environmental education programme ‘Our Water Matters’ to 300 primary school children in Newhaven and Peacehaven took place in the summer term, with funding from South East Water. We also sponsored a local youth ambassador to participate in the MAB Youth Forum meeting in September in Italy.
We have worked to support the capacity of the voluntary sector to collaborate on the care of urban greenspace through the establishment of the Brighton & Hove Green Spaces Forum the Green Havens network in Newhaven/Peacehaven.
We have invested significant resources in to the promotion of its new identity of ‘The Living Coast’ in 2017 through its website www.thelivingcoast.org.uk and use of social media channels Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (including pro bono support from a local digital agency). The website promotion includes an innovative interactive ‘Explore TLC’ map for people to discover what lies on our doorstep.
Biosffer Dyfi Biosphere
The two-year development project co-funded by LEADER and the local authorities has focussed on two priorities. The first is to engage more children and young people and the second is to help businesses explore how to use the Dyfi Biosphere brand. The appointed officer made some progress but left at the end of August and has not been replaced. Instead, contractors are being sought to carry out specific pieces of work.
One contract will re-engage education providers, strengthening practical links with schools and (probably) farmers. The development of the new curriculum in Wales presents excellent opportunities, as it will include a focus on community connection and on developing global citizens.
The second will develop the food and drink cluster of visitor-oriented businesses, improving and promoting local provenance and links to landscape.
Five delegates benefitted from attending the UNESCO MAB Youth Forum. Other international contacts included a visit by a member of the Education Group to the Isle of Man BR, hosted by the Farming and Wildlife Group, and a presentation by social enterprise Cletwr at the economies in Biospheres event organised by the Appennino Tosco-Emiliano Biosphere and OASIIS in October 2017.
Galloway and Southern Ayrshire
- 5- year core funding supplemented by annual commitments from SNH and FCS. Provides 0.6 FTE for co-ordinator and business development roles, plus some administration support.
- Restructuring the Partnership Board concluded. Board 16 members and small group fulfilling the dual role of trustees and management committee.
- Accreditation scheme for businesses moved to pilot stage with three businesses
- Socio-economic base-line study by University of Glasgow launched in September.
- Successful application to the HLF Great Place Scheme . Allows employment two project officers for two years to work with communities in three distinctive landscape areas
- Ayrshire Learning Partnership with Ayrshire College launched in September. The aim is to create live briefs for students that have a focus on the Biosphere.
- In partnership with Forest Enterprise hosted an international Dark Skies Conference in September.
- Two officers attended the first World Youth Forum for Biospheres in Italy
- Working in SHAPE project
Despite some severe cutback in the core budget of the BR from the local authorities due to austerity measures, the BR has developed and is now implementing a range of projects and has recently engaged in the Defra Pioneers associated with the government’s forthcoming 25 Year Environment Plan.
Cutbacks have led to the reduction of 1.4 FTE in the permanent team to leave 1.6 FTE in place. The implementation of some of the projects has now led to the recruitment of 2.2 FTE largely as project management rolls, and more expected as other projects come on line.
The recent governance changes switch the emphasis from the BR team from being a mixed strategic body and implementation body to one of more coordination and intelligence and commissioning work through partners.
The governance structure of working groups appears to be working well in developing true partnership projects.
The main strategic work at the moment is associated with the Defra Pioneers. The landscape pioneer and the Marine pioneer we chosen to be applied in the BR due to the leading work already done in north Devon. These projects are designed to test the natural capital approach, improve decision making, use new tools and approaches, develop innovative finance, improve integration between authorities. The Pioneers are developing their plans now and have gone through exercises of ecosystem assessments and natural capital assessments to identify areas for investment.
WRB has made progress in promoting itself. We have a logo and produced our first leaflet. The certificate awarding ceremony in September was an informal but successful event. We have been meetings community groups to raise the WRB profile as well as with organisations to explore collaboration opportunities. We went to Edinburgh to exhibit at the high-level Arctic Circle Conference and also attended an informative NORD MAB meeting at the Moen Biosphere in Denmark. The NPA SHAPE project is making progress with preparations being made to host a partnership meeting in April.
2020 is to be the Year of Coasts and Water in Scotland, and WRB is working with other groups to enhance the West Coast as Scotland’s prime marine tourism destination as well as reduce the pressure on landward infrastructure (NC500). WRB have also joined a Marine Litter Working Group to tackle the increasing issue of marine litter.
We reached the second round of the HLF Great Places Scheme, managing to bring in 2 major project partners. Although not successful, we had positive feedback from the funders. Also the material is useful in producing our 5 year strategic plan.