In 1996, the six local authorities within the County of Warwickshire, plus Solihull and Coventry unitary authorities, English Nature (Natural England) and the Environment Agency established the Habitat Biodiversity Audit (HBA) Partnership under the management of Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and based at Warwickshire County Council’s Ecological Services offices in Warwick. The HBA's remit was to survey every field and boundary in the sub-region to provide up-to-date biodiversity data. The data is held on a Geographical Information System (GIS), which provides high quality coded maps and linked site notes with a powerful tool for interpretation and statistical analysis.
Surveying is ongoing, and a mechanism has been established to update the HBA on an annual basis. The aim is for each field and boundary to be re-surveyed at least every five years. Volunteer Phase 1 surveyors have made a valuable contribution to the updating of the survey.
The data is invaluable in protecting and enhancing habitats across the sub-region. The planning authorities use the information for a range of purposes, including spatial planning and development control. As the longest continuous running survey of its kind the Phase 1 survey for Warwickshire has become an invaluable research data set for land-use change and landscape enhancements across the region.
The HBA is the only recognised Best practice model for monitoring and auditing biodiversity by the European Union Committee of Regions (December 2006).
Warwickshire Wildlife Sites Project – Local Wildlife Sites designation
The Wildlife Sites Project began in 1999 to develop and maintain a formalised Local Wildlife Sites system for Warwickshire, made up of Wildlife Sites and Local Geological Sites as part of a wider initiative also involving the Local Wildlife Sites system operated in Coventry and Solihull. Originally developed for the West Midlands by Natural England, the Wildlife Sites Project is now part of the HBA Partnership.
The Wildlife Sites Project is responsible for site selection in collaboration with the local authorities and undertakes the detailed site survey generally referred to as a Phase 2 habitat survey, against a set of criteria based on the Joint Nature Conservancy Council (JNCC) national criteria for the selection of biological Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). These have been expanded to reflect a local authority’s role in nature conservation including local community characteristics.
The designation of Local Wildlife Sites is considered by a panel of experts including representatives from Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, Natural England, Warwickshire Ecological Services and an independent expert. To-date there are a total of 431 Local Wildlife Sites covering 4,773 hectares across the Warwickshire sub-region, ranging from woodlands, grasslands, post-industrial sites, hedgerows and rivers, with canals to be added this year.