Agenda item

Scrutiny Review Recommendations - Nature Recovery

To consider a report from the Head of Democratic Services outlining the findings and recommendations from the Scrutiny Review of Nature Recovery undertaking by Members from Improving Places Select Commission.


The Chair invited Councillor Adam Tinsley, Vice-Chair of Improving Place Select Commission to introduce the Scrutiny Review Recommendations – Nature Recovery.


The Member outlined that Nature Recovery motion (agreed at the Council Meeting of 25 May 2022) committed the Council to a range of activities, including ensuring its response to tackling climate change was extended to compliment the aligned cause of nature crisis. It also committed the Council to continue its work to enhance biodiversity by adopting innovative approaches to support wild flowered areas and ecological approaches to grounds maintenance.


The review was undertaken by members of the Improving Places Select Commission following its referral from Council. It started its work in March 2023, concluding later in the year.


It was a wide-ranging piece of work which included visits to nature sites, discussions with groups and expert witnesses as well as presentations and discussions with officers to understand the challenges of nature recovery. The review also looked closely at the Environment Act and the enhanced duties for local authorities to conserve and enhance biodiversity and report on their actions. Alongside this, it examined measures to address the impact of climate change and promote and protect biodiversity.


Councillor Tinsley put on record his thanks to everyone who shared their expert testimony. This included Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, members of the Rotherham Local Wildlife Sites Panel, South Yorkshire Police as well as RMBC’s Green Spaces Team, Ecology and Climate Change staff.


He also thanked Katherine Harclerode for her work in supporting this review and wish her well in her future work since she left the Council.


The report detailed its finding in section 2.3 of the report. As part of its evidence gathering, Members were able to establish what action was being taken by the Council, community organisations and partners to achieve targets and uphold duties under the Environment Act 2021, as well as future challenges.


There were 12 recommendations in total which were outlined in the report. These included:


·       That consideration to be given to what resources are required to coordinate the Council’s response to the Environment Act 2021, including the Local Nature Recovery Strategy, Enhanced Biodiversity Net Gain, and other statutory reporting.

·       Expanding the Councillor’s role as nature champion

·       How the RMBC ‘estate’ can contribute to the Council’s obligations for the Enhanced Biodiversity Duty

·      Continue the positive work underway including tree planting, meadow management, changes in verge management, community engagement etc


The Chair invited comments and questions from Board Members and the following points were made:


Councillor Browne, who was part of the review group, asked that an additional recommendation be considered. He outlined that the timescales and process for setting up a community wildlife site was difficult. He asked that consideration be given to how the process could be streamlined.


Reference was made to local residents supporting biodiversity in their local area and the hard work to safeguard these “little nuggets”. The additional recommendation was welcomed if it made it easier and more accessible for local communities to work with their elected members to secure sites.


The Chair thanked all members who took part in the review. She noted that because of the shortened year, the review would be submitted to the first meeting of the Cabinet scheduled for June 2024. It would be submitted to Improving Places Select Commission at its next meeting.




1.    That the report and the following recommendations be received with the addition of the recommendation 13):


1)         Consider what resources are required to enable RMBC to lead on the Nature Emergency and co-ordinate its response to the Environment Act 2021, including the Local Nature Recovery Strategy, Enhanced Biodiversity Net Gain, and other statutory reporting.

2)         In line with the RMBC Nature Crisis Motion (and the mandatory Enhanced Biodiversity Duty), consider how RMBC’s response to the nature crisis can be implemented, reported, and resourced (taking note of the response to climate action).

3)         Consideration be given to the expansion of the Councillor’s role as nature champions. This to include:

a.         How member stewardship of natural assets and geodiversity and be enhanced.

b.         How nature recovery and climate action can be built into ward plans.

c.          The involvement in overview and scrutiny in future monitoring and steering of this work.

d.         Support through the Member Development Programme to ensure Members are equipped with appropriate skills and knowledge to undertake this activity.

4)         Contribute to the South Yorkshire Local Nature Recovery Strategy (including appropriate resourcing) detailing Rotherham’s involvement in meeting South Yorkshire national and global targets of “30 x 30” as required by the Environment Act 2021.

5)         Consider and plan for how the RMBC estate including all green and blue infrastructure such as allotments, cemeteries,  parks and sports fields, amenity spaces, communal gardens, railway and highway verges, field margins and hedgerows, rights of way and access routes, woodlands and nature reserves canals, rivers and other water dependent habitats; can contribute to biodiversity strategies and targets;  demonstrating compliance with the Councils obligations for the Enhanced Biodiversity Duty (taking external advice where necessary).

6)         Prioritise Local Wildlife Sites and Woodlands - especially those in RMBC ownership- to contribute to these targets, with a coordinated ‘one council’ programme to increase their positive conservation management with resourced management, monitoring and reporting.

7)         Continue and expand the positive work already underway including tree planting, meadow management, changes in verge management, community engagement etc (as stated in the RMBC Nature Crisis motion)

8)         Utilise appropriate evidence and information from the forthcoming Rotherham State of Nature report, alongside the forthcoming SYLNRS, and the agreed priority species lists, to set local species recovery targets and work plans, and ensure sufficient resources are secured to embed this approach in long term management opportunities.

9)         Continue to apply robust planning policies and other policy tools to contribute to nature's recovery across the Borough, noting that Local Planning Authorities must have regard to the South Yorkshire Local Nature Recovery Strategy once published.

10)      Plan to work towards zero non-essential use of pesticides and zero glyphosate by the Council;

11)      Work with communities to support expansion of household composting, and supporting the development of nature rich gardens, including through awareness raising of the waste hierarchy and minimising the use of new and scarce resources and the associated impacts on the natural environment that these issues have; substantive resourcing and engagement plans will be essential. 

12)      Work with partners, stakeholders, Parish Councils, communities, schools and residents on the above where appropriate.

13)      That consideration be given to how the process for the adoption of community wildlife sites be streamlined.

2.    That the report, as approved, be forwarded to Cabinet for its consideration.


3.    That Cabinet is asked to formally consider its response to the above recommendations within two months of its receipt, in accordance with the Overview and Scrutiny Procedure Rules.

Supporting documents: