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Development Plan for The Worcestershire Biological Records Centre

By Pauline Homer, Conservation and Heritage Officer, Worcestershire County Council.

‘Do we need to develop the Local Record Centre?’ is a question that many of you may ask. I would answer YES for many reasons, not least of which is to help you the recorders. All the species records which you go out and collect are not just an end in themselves, but a means to find out what an important resource for biodiversity there is in the county, so that mechanisms can be developed to retain, enhance and create the specific habitats which individual species need. We also need the Centre developed for other individuals and organisations within the county who need access to data in order to look after the habitats and species present. ‘Do you want to see all the species and more that you are recording in the county still there in twenty or more years?’ I believe the development of the Local Record Centre will make this more likely.

I am therefore writing this article to give a brief summary of the content of the Development Plan for the Worcestershire Record Centre and to outline how the Study Steering Group propose to move forward. Those of you who attended the AGM of the existing Worcestershire Biological Records Centre at the end of March will already have heard me talk about the Development Plan.

The initiative is being progressed by a Study Steering Group which consists of representatives from English Nature, the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, the existing Worcestershire Biological Records Centre, the Worcestershire Biodiversity Partnership and Worcestershire County Council. The ‘we’ in this article refers to this group, which comprises David Heaver (EN), Geoff Trevis (WWT), John Partridge (Worcs BRC), Alex Preston (County BAP Officer - Worcs Biodiversity Partnership), Colin Raven (administrative support) and me, Pauline Homer (Worcestershire County Council) acting as Chair.

As I am sure you are aware, the purpose of the Biological Records Centre is to collect, collate, manage and then disseminate the biological data for the county. We envisage a centre which provides a service which is independent, objective and works on a not-for-profit basis.

Last summer, we asked Somerset Environmental Records Centre (SERC) to act as Consultants to prepare a Development Plan. They used questionnaires, interviews and workshop to assess the level of interest and commitment within the county for the development of a centre which will meet the accreditation levels for the National Biodiversity Network.

SERC identified a vision for the centre and looked at a range of user needs and products. They provided a brief resume of the existing data and asked consultees about the range of services and activities they would require. Their report contains recommendations about how the centre could be structured, from the institutional arrangements and management systems, to the staff who would be needed to run it. In addition they have costed a two year establishment phase to set up the centre and looked at the potential funding mechanisms.

The report has provided us with options for the way forward. We have already decided to go ahead in the ways outlined below:

To send a copy of the report to all the consultees
To prepare a summary document for other interested parties
To get advice about the best institutional structure
To assess in greater detail the level of commitment by potential partners
To help the existing WBRC by providing finance for equipment and training

If you would like to obtain a copy of the report, copies are available from the Wildlife Trust at a cost of 3.00. John Partridge is also hoping to put a copy on the Worcs BRC web site (www.wbrc.org) for those of you who have access to the Web.

One final question ‘Do you have any comments or questions on the Development Plan?’ If so, please contact me – do use snail mail (with apologies to Consignia alias Royal Mail), electronic mail (alias email) or even by telephone. You, the Voluntary Recorders are an essential element of the Biological Records Centre in the County, providing as you do, the majority of the species information. The development of the centre will not only enable you, the recorders to be able to manipulate your data more easily, but will also mean that the records you collect can be used to help protect biodiversity in the county for future generations.

Pauline Homer, Conservation and Heritage Officer, 01905 766730
phomer@worcestershire.gov.uk
Environmental Services. PO Box 373, County Hall, Spetchley Road, Worcester WR5 2XG

If you prefer you can contact any other member of the Steering Group.

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