Information and Advsiory Note Number 61, November 1996
1.1 This Note is an introduction to Local Nature Reserves (LNRs). It provides basic information on how LNRs are designated, their purpose, opportunities created through the designation and sources of further guidance. The information and general guidance in this Note highlight the possibilities for declaring land as a LNR.
2.1 LNRs are areas of land which are designated by Local Authorities as being important as a local natural heritage resource and/or for delivering environmental education opportunities, community enjoyment and appreciation of the countryside.
2.2 Amhall Moss LNR, which lies to the west of Aberdeen, highlights a good example of an LNR declaration. This lowland raised bog was identified as being important within a local setting for its natural heritage interest, its proximity to the local community of Westhill and its potential use for environmental education.
2.3 Prior to the declaration of the Moss, this area of land provided an open green space for informal recreation. Its natural heritage interest, although not of national importance, was regarded as special within the Local Authority area. The interest of the site, demonstrated by the local community use of the area, its natural heritage features and the opportunities for education and recreation, were important in determining its suitability for LNR declaration in January 1991.
3.1 LNRs are established under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. Section 15 of the Act defines nature reserves as ‘land managed for the purpose of:
3.2 This definition of a nature reserve is placed in the ‘local’ context by Section 21 of the same Act.
3.3 Arnhall Moss LNR illustrates that the Act’s definition is very limited. This LNR was established to safeguard the natural heritage interest, to support the existing community use and involvement on the site and to enlist the LNR for local environmental education.
4.1 In the wider context, LNRs can be used by Local Authorities, alongside other measures, for meeting Sustainable Development objectives. Government have outlined issues and policies relating to the delivery of Sustainable Development in a number of different papers, e.g., This Common Inheritance, Local Agenda 21 and the Biodiversity Action Plan. These documents are the basis on which Local Authorities must develop their own policies and plans for delivering Sustainable Development.
4.2 One way in which Local Authorities can help in achieving these objectives is by producing Natural Heritage Strategies. Such strategies are a mixture of policies, technical reports and maps which aim to deliver the conservation of the natural heritage. Within these policies and programmes sites can be earmarked for special recognition for their natural heritage interest. LNRs and other statutory and non statutory designations, e.g. Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), areas within Country Parks, Regionally Important Geological and Geomorphological Sites (RIGS), Sites of Interest to Natural Science (SINS) and Listed Wildlife Sites (LWS), can fulfil such roles.
5.1 Numbers of LNRs
The number of LNRs in Scotland is relatively small compared to those in England and Wales. There are currently 23 LNRs in Scotland, 519 in England and 31 in Wales (as at 31 March 1996). Figure 1 shows the cumulative number of LNRs in Scotland up to 31 March 1996.
5.2 The first LNR in Britain was declared at Aberlady Bay in 1952. Declaration of LNRs in Scotland was slow up to the late 1980s, but from 1991 to the present day numbers have steadily increased, reflecting the growing interest in the protection of valuable habitats. It is anticipated that a number of new LNRs will be declared in the next few years.
5.3 Size and distribution of LNRs
5.4 Table 1 shows the distribution of existing LNRs in Scotland. This table illustrates the wide distribution of LNRs and also highlights that LNRs are found in both densely populated urban areas and in rural locations. The word Local in this context varies in respect of the proximity of the LNR to its communities.
5.5 Not all Local Authorities have chosen to use the LNR designation to deliver their natural heritage strategies. Other options such as SINS, LWS, etc. are used to secure their objectives. Within these strategies each Local Authority will differ in the types of measures used and the corresponding priority given to each for controlling development on land within their jurisdiction.
Table 1 also shows the area in hectares of each LNR. The average area of an LNR in Scotland is 354*T*ha., compared to 35*T*ha. in England and 161*T*ha. in Wales. The difference in area of LNRs in Scotland to those in England and Wales may reflect a number of factors such as the availability of land, pressures on it and the extent of Local Authority ownership. The size of an LNR, therefore depends on local circumstances.
5.8 Natural heritage interest
A variety of different habitats and accompanying interests are represented in the current LNRs. The following table gives an approximate indication of the habitat types and interests to be found on Scottish LNRs.
These habitats and features are all important in a local context.
5.8.1 Some LNRs are subjected to other statutory designations, e.g. SSSI, Special Protection Area (SPA), Ramsar site or Country Park. However, the natural heritage importance of LNRs is based on the Local Authority context, that is, they may already be identified as SINS or LWS within the Local Plan. They do not need to meet the higher standard of SSSIs to warrant declaration.
5.8.2 Controlled management of a site can enhance the natural heritage value and can help to create a variety of habitats.
5.9.1 LNRs can be established on areas of land which are either owned, leased or under a nature reserve agreement with the Local Authority. The declaration process is made easier if the Local Authority owns the land earmarked for designation.
5.9.2 Local Authorities have a number of options for securing an interest in the land. Most of these are already noted in paragraph 5.7. One other option for securing Local Authority interest in the land is the use of compulsory purchase powers, under Section 17 of the 1949 Act. Straiton Pond LNR in Midlothian was established after the Council purchased the land using these powers. Generally these powers are not used except in extreme circumstances which, in the case of Straiton Pond, was emphasised by the development threat to a site which the Council deemed to have potential for encouraging environmental education and community interest. Other measures were not successful in this respect.
5.9.3 Where a site of natural heritage interest is owned by a number of parties, LNR declaration can be used as a positive tool for bringing owners together to manage the site jointly for the benefit of the natural heritage and the community.
6.1 To declare an area as an LNR, the Local Authority must follow a number of steps. These procedures can be complex and at times protracted. The main areas to be considered when proposing LNR declaration, are summarised below.
6.2 Identification of a suitable site
Ideally an LNR should be identified in an authority wide context rather than on an ad hoc basis. However, this is not always essential, especially where an ideal site is threatened by development. Factors to consider when identifying suitable sites for declaration should include natural heritage interest, proximity to local communities and potential for environmental education. A further point for consideration is whether the authority has, or can establish, a legal interest (owns, leases or a nature reserve agreement is in place) in the land.
It is important for the Local Authority to canvass opinion on the LNR proposal from the local community, owners, neighbours and other interest groups. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) must be consulted formally on the final proposals but can be brought in at an earlier stage. Consultation can prove advantageous in creating ownership of the proposals, raising awareness of the local environment and in providing options for resourcing the LNR in the future.
Management arrangements should be considered early in the declaration process to ensure that the value of the site is maintained or enhanced. Arrangements should include: the production of a management plan; assessment of whether byelaws or management rules are required; and methods for the maintenance and policing of the LNR.
6.6 Authorities considering identifying and declaring an LNR should be fully aware that ongoing support will require an appropriate level of resource allocation. Suggestions are provided in section 9.
6.7 Formal declaration
The proposals require final approval by the Council. In essence they should be consulted early in the process but formal declaration must also be approved by Council Members. Formal declaration should be advertised in an appropriate newspaper.
6.8 De-declaration. An LNR can be de-declared should circumstances change within the Local Authority, or in a case where the LNR designation is no longer needed for safeguarding the significant natural and community interest. In such circumstances the de-declaration of the site does not necessarily indicate that the area is no longer of interest.
7.1 SNH is involved in the declaration process both formally and informally. Formal consultation with SNH will help to establish a sound case, detailing the purpose and reasons for declaration and should help to highlight the maintenance and management requirements of the site. SNH may wish to discuss the proposals and suggest other opportunities available to the Local Authority. Such discussions are important in ensuring the Local Authority has considered all the important issues prior to declaration. The first point of contact in any consultation with SNH on LNR declarations should be the Local Area Office.
7.2 SNH’s support during the stages of development and establishment of the LNR can serve to:
7.3 It should be remembered that LNRs are a Local Authority designation and, as such, SNH has a limited, but focused, role in their development and establishment.
8.1 Careful management of the LNR is essential to ensure the maintenance of the natural heritage and community value of the site. As a result of good management, improvements and enhancements in the LNR will be seen. It will therefore be necessary to establish appropriate measures for managing the LNR. These may include:
The management measures noted are just some of those available. Such measures can assist in developing close contact with the local community and other interest groups, creating opportunities for them to be actively involved on the LNR.
9.1 For the LNR designation to be successful, it is essential that sufficient resources are available to maintain and manage the reserve. If the LNR is part of the Local Authority natural heritage strategy or included in the Local Plan, it is more likely that the necessary resources will be made available or at least be considered along with other expenditure priorities.
9.2 Resources can come in many forms, i.e. monetary, manpower, sponsorship, etc. The following are some suggestions:
9.3 It may be beneficial to involve a number of different methods for achieving support. This can be done by creating partnerships which involve some or all of the above participants. Such partnerships can help to provide the required support in monetary and manpower terms. Working in partnership with other interested parties is beneficial to ensuring support and involvement in the LNR.
10.1.1 An LNR can often be a valuable and easily accessible resource for providing environmental education. For example, Balquhidderock Wood LNR near Stirling is located close to a number of schools. One of the three schools in its vicinity, Braehead Primary, is producing a leaflet on the reserve, covering such topics as why it is a nature reserve and what the children like about it. The leaflet will be illustrated with the pupils’ own drawings. This involvement and other school events on the LNR are important opportunities for improving children’s awareness of their environment.
10.1.2 Arnhall Moss LNR also provides a further example of the use of LNRs for environmental education. Here, local teachers have been seconded to produce suitable learning material, based on the LNR and its facilities.
10.2 Community involvement
10.2.1 LNRs are often important to local communities, many being frequently used for informal and formal recreation and general enjoyment of the environment.
10.2.2 The local community can include a variety of different user groups, such as local residents, interest groups, fishermen, wildfowlers, individuals and naturalists. These groups will have a real interest in the on-going management of the LNR.
10.2.3 Community involvement in the management and maintenance of an LNR can be illustrated by the activities undertaken at Scotstown Moor. Here, litter picking and gorse clearance were undertaken by the local community. Input through membership of the LNR Management Committee is another way in which the community can be involved.
10.2.4 The sense of local community ownership for the LNR will increase with involvement and can be very positive in creating awareness of the surrounding environment.
10.2.5 Communities should also be encouraged to become actively involved in identifying and steering suitable sites through to LNR declaration. Community involvement in the establishment, management and maintenance of the LNR can prove to be a good Local Agenda 21 project.
11.1 The LNR designation offers a number of opportunities for the Local Authority, e.g. in providing a method for securing and conserving land with local natural heritage interest, controlling certain activities on areas of land, for providing an area for informal recreation or enjoyment by the local community and others alike and in their potential use for environmental education.
11.2 Initiatives created through partnerships and ownership of LNRs are positive steps in meeting Local Authorities’ natural heritage objectives and in the fulfilment of national policies. LNR declaration can be seen as a hands on approach to achieving these policies for a sustainable future.
Further guidance on the declaration procedures will be available in due course.
Barker, G. and Curry, D. (1989), Local Reserves for local people. Natural World 25, 14-15.
Biodiversity, The UK Action Plan (1992).
Box, J.D. (1991), Local Nature reserves: nature conservation and public enjoyment. The Planner, July, 5-7.
Centre of Planning Research (1996), Local Nature Reserves in Scotland; Review and Evaluation, University of Dundee, Unpublished report.
Centre of Planning Research (1996), Local Nature Reserves in Scotland; Strategic Guidance, University of Dundee, Unpublished report.
Centre of Planning Research (1996), Local Nature Reserves in Scotland; An Inventory of Sites, University of Dundee, Unpublished report.
Collis, I. and Tyldesley, D. (1993). Natural Assets. The Local Government Nature Conservation Initiative.
English Nature (1991), Local Nature Reserves in England. English Nature, Peterborough.
English Nature (1994), Managing LNRs. English Nature, Peterborough.
IUCN (1994), Parks for Life. Action for Protected Areas in Europe.
Jamieson, D. (1995), Local Nature Reserves in Scotland: Status, Function and Potential, Heriot Watt University, Unpublished Diploma Thesis
Nature Conservancy Council (1990), Local Nature Reserves. Information sheet No. 6