Valerie Selby, Wandsworth Borough Council
Like all borough biodiversity officers, I require access to reliable species information for many aspects of my work including strategic and development planning. A variety of people will expect me to be able to tell them what lives where in the borough, the moment that I pick up the phone to them. Yet many biodiversity officers inherit what information we have in various forms – paper notes, spreadsheets etc – from a variety of sources. These can be hard to collate at short notice. Equally, our records are often incomplete. We often don’t have access to data held by recording groups and societies that operate regionally or nationally.
Having a service level agreement with GiGL has enabled me to streamline many of our data handling processes. GiGL undertakes the tedious task of entering all the odd notes, old surveys and various files onto their database in a form that is easy for me to retrieve and interpret. GiGL also increasingly works with various recording groups and societies making their information available to me as well.This has huge benefits, providing me with access to data of which I would not otherwise be aware – such as records of bat roosts and other protected species.
During 2006,Wandsworth Borough Council made comments on over 100 planning applications that had potential impacts on, or benefits for biodiversity. Had each developer or consultant come to us to fulfil the ‘existing data’ element of their desk study, we would never have had the time or resources to provide comprehensive information.The IEEM guidance for ecological consultants states that they should contact their local record centre at the earliest point in the process. When consultants call, we can refer them to GiGL, confident that their data search will be as comprehensive as is possible. Consultants can use the data that GiGL provides to decide what additional surveys are necessary before development proposals are finalised. GiGL’s involvement gives me peace of mind that a developer is providing accurate information to the borough planning officers. My time can be better used fully assessing the potential impacts and benefits on the species using a proposed development site.