Statement on Portbury Wharf

Monday 17th August 2015

In recent months the Trust has raised concerns about the future quality of the Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve due to threats to its future funding, and concerns about the lack of any process of consultation with Avon Wildlife Trust on this issue by North Somerset Council (NSC).

Following letters of concern, we met with council officers on 2 July to share the concerns from both organisations. Since then we have been waiting to hear how NSC would take forward a process for considering options for the future funding and management of the reserve and how the Trust would be involved in that process.

We now understand that reports are being produced that will be the subject of two decision notices for a decision by the NSC Executive Member for HR, asset management, capital programme, transformation programme – Cllr David Pasley.  

Following advice from NSC officers, we expect the reports and notices to be posted online in late September 2015 at the earliest. We expect to be alerted to them by officers and that the Trust, residents and other interested parties will be able to comment on the reports and proposed decisions.

However, we were disappointed to learn that the Trust will not be invited to contribute our ideas on the future funding or management of the reserve to the reports or have any other input to them. We also understand that we will not receive any responses to our letters to NSC and that our concerns will be addressed in the reports to the decision notices.

Therefore, we hope that councillors will call in the matter for a full council debate, and at that time the Trust and others will be able to comment on the decision notices. However, in line with NSC processes, any recommendations from the debate may or may not be adopted by the Executive Member at his discretion.

Cllr Nigel Ashton's letter to Village Quarter Residents in March 2015 has generated a number of problems and costs for the Trust. Given the clear political will and processes, we have to work under the assumption that the Trust will not have any involvement in, or funding from, the management of the nature reserve post-December 2015. As a result we have already had to reforecast our budgets and agreed reallocation of roles for staff whose posts are funded to support Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve. We will continue to care for the nature reserve until the end of 2015 and remain open to future involvement.

The Trust's concerns remain that the future quality of an important wildlife habitat is maintained, and that commitments to offset the development of 2,600 houses by funding a nature reserve in perpetuity are upheld.

We will continue to demand transparency in any decisions affecting the above. We also continue to call for the Board of PMML to meet and discuss the situation, which they have yet to do.

We hope this statement is helpful to the numerous enquiries we receive on this issue and clarifies our understanding of the situation for interested parties.