AONB Functions To Be Outsourced As Part Of Town Hall Restructuring

aonb signThe majority of Scilly’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty functions are set to be outsourced.

But that’s concerned some members of the advisory group that used to set the AONB policy. They feel that Council officers will have too much influence and former Chairman Johann Hicks fears the change could be detrimental to the islands

On the 4th September, the AONB’s Joint Advisory Committee (JAC), which was composed of stakeholders from wildlife, environment and land management groups, agreed to axe the Council’s AONB Unit, which employed two people. Manager Trevor Kirk left his post earlier this month.

The Council has created a new job position though – a ‘Physical Assets and Natural Resources’ officer.

Third party organisations will pick up much of the work and it is understood that the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust will be engaged on an 18-month contract for operations.

At the same meeting, the JAC itself, which directed the AONB, was axed. It will be replaced with a Community Forum that meets twice a year.

A new Executive team led by Council Chairman Amanda Martin has been formed. That group will now manage the day-to-day activities of the AONB and includes representative from the Council, the Duchy, Wildlife Trust, Islands’ Partnership, Tresco Estate and farmers.

There’ll be a third, advisory group formed by the RSPB, Natural England, English Heritage and the IFCA.

Former JAC member Marian Bennett is worried by the development. She feels that Council officers will now be in charge and she believes that a bi-annual community forum won’t provide the necessary scrutiny of decision-making.

Marian says the group won’t meet often enough to keep abreast of events and potentially challenge officers.

Johann Hicks shares Marian’s concerns. He questions whether the new structure will effectively protect the beauty, biodiversity and landscape, as there’s not a strong enough community voice.

Recent JAC meetings have certainly not followed their normal pattern. In July’s meeting, which was scheduled to discuss restructuring, the Joint Advisory Group Chairman Amanda Martin cancelled a meeting within minutes of its scheduled start, claiming it was not quorate.

There weren’t enough members present.

The meeting was rescheduled for this month but unusually press were not invited to view discussions on the JAC abolition and it was held behind closed doors. Radio and newspaper reporters would usually be given notice of the meeting and agenda details.

Johan says time will tell whether his concerns will be realised.

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