When a Biodiversity Assessment is Just a Chat on the Phone

At the meeting on 18th January to discuss the proposed Field Day and LoveBox music festivals in Brockwell Park this summer, Lee Fiorentino of Lambeth's Events Department made some very encouraging statements about Biodiversity and Brockwell Park, as I am highlighting below. For why the biodiversity of Brockwell Park is so important, and Lambeth Council's legal requirements to safeguard it, see Helen Firminger's comprehensive article posted 21-1-18:

https://brockwellparkcommunitypartners.org.uk

Here is what Lee Fiorentino promised:

Lee Fiorentino: "...we work very closely with a gentleman by the name of Dr Iain Boulton, who is the Biodiversity Officer for us. So he basically is part of the assessment process for all events. He lets us know if an event is going to have an impact on a particularly sensitive area within the park and that it would be advisable not to have an event near to a particular area, so we get a lot of input from him for pretty much all of our event applications.".... "This is at Stage 1, the technical assessment for an event that goes into the park..."

Note that earlier in the meeting he had indicated that we were now at the consultation stage, which is Stage 3, where plans were projected in the meeting that specified the locations in the park that would be used. Stage 1, he had told us, occured in November. So clearly Dr Boulton, according to Lee's statement, must have given clearance for those particular areas to be used.

Chair: "I think Lee if you’ve got that report, I think it should be made very public."

Lee Fiorentino: "That’s fine, we can basically share the information that we receive from our colleagues about a particular event. When we consult with him he always sends us an email with a follow up, so happy to share information on any particular event, especially in reference to the two events..."

My interpretation of the above was that either a report should shortly be winging its way into the public domain about the biodiversity assessment made by Dr Boulton specifically concerning the impact the two proposed festivals would have on the park's biodiversity or in a worst case scenario we'd be forwarded a mere email from Dr Boulton on the subject, something in my mind that would seem a little casual coming from a specialist officer concerning two very major events 

However, Mr Fiorentino has since written 23-1-18 that there is, as yet, nothing in writing from Dr Boulton: "I have checked with colleagues and there are internal emails relating to conversations with our colleagues in parks about these events, the conversation with Dr Boulton on the events was taken over the phone. However to put your mind at ease and for other residents who have sought similar information, we have consulted further with Dr Boulton and he will happily supply written feedback which can be circulated for your information."

Fine, I'm looking forward to it, but supplying this information AFTER the consultation period ends makes a mockery of the consultation, unless it is extended. Mr Fiorentino today describes Dr Boulton as Lambeth's Environmental Compliance Officer, while last week he was its Biodiversity Officer. I do hope the former will ensure that the latter is able do his job free from any undue pressure to give the festivals the all clear against his better judgement.

For the sake of clarity I highlighted above Lee Fiorentino's key promises that he made at the meeting on the subject of biodiversity, but to avoid any accusation of quoting him out of context, I'll reproduce below a complete transcript of the five minutes of the meeting that were given over to the subject of biodiversity, with timings in minutes and seconds from when the meeting was opened.
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43mins 25secs (43.25) Chair: This is about biodiversity, more than just grass

Helen Firminger (HF): Hello, I think everyone here knows the park - it is very rich in wildlife, everyone here uses the park on a regular basis, sees the woodpeckers, hears the grasshoppers, enjoys that. You probably know that the park has status for nature conservation, that it is considered of Grade 1 for the borough as a  site of importance for Nature Conservation. The borough notes in its Local Plan that any damage to a site of Grade 1 would be significant loss to the borough. There is also legislation called NERC Act [The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006] which I’m sure you know about which means that the local authority is expected to consider biodiversity in all its actions, not just in planning. So my question basically is, how has Lambeth considered the biodiversity so far, and at what stage is this taken in the decision making processes?

44.40 Lee Fiorentino (LF): So with all event applications we work very closely with our partners in the Parks Department and we work very closely with a gentleman by the name of Dr Iain Boulton, who is the Biodiversity Officer for us. So he basically is part of the assessment process for all events. He lets us know if an event is going to have an impact on a particularly sensitive area within the park and that it would be advisable not to have an event near to a particular area, so we get a lot of input from him for pretty much all of our event applications.

45.20 HF: …so what’s he saying, what’s he saying about that? 

45.22 LF: In general, you know I don’t know word for word…

45.28 HF: What’s he saying about the grass, what’s he saying about the woodpeckers and about the bats, not just in general, what’s he saying?

45.38 LF: In general based on the event applications he will let us know whether there is any particular…

45.42 HF: When, when?

45.44 Chair: Where is the report, as I think people would like to know, so they can see what the assessment is?

45.48 HF:  At what stage in the decision making process is this?

45.50 Lee: This is at Stage 1, the technical assessment for an event that goes into the park, so we talk to our colleagues in the Parks Department…

46.00 HF: Will there be another meeting once you’ve had these discussions?  This is all very [worrying? unintelligble]

46.10 Clapping

46.18 HF: ..when you have the answers…angry… [commotion]

46.35 Chair: Let’s keep the information flowing. Nature and the biodiversity is really important. There’s a lot of people who spend a long time doing little things, it’s incremental year after year through the decades to get the park being as rich in biodiversity as it is. I think Lee if you’ve got that report, I think it should be made very public. [Clapping]  So in other words, what are you measuring for, and what are you going to measure afterwards which may influence, if any event takes place, whether it would happen for a second time?

47.15 LF: That’s fine, we can basically share the information that we receive from our colleagues about a particular event. When we consult with him he always sends us an email with a follow up so happy to share information on any particular event, especially in reference to the two events, and what we can do is we can put that information within the pro forma document.

47.35 Anon: But you’ve already said that you’ve progressed from Part 1 [clapping] ..this is Part 3…

47.44 LF: Yes but this is the initial technical assessment that we talk to officers and colleagues about…

47.50 Anon: But how do get get to Part 3 without us knowing about Part 1?

47.53 LF: Because we need to get… [interruptions]

47.57 Chair: I think the issue is that you may have done the work but the community have never seen it so how are we supposed to judge, how are we supposed…  If it is not transparent, honest and up front it’s not on. So that document needs to be made public as soon as possible so if you can send it to me tomorrow I can put it up on the website.

48.15 Anon: And we need a timeline

48.18 Chair: And we need a timeline as to how it fits in to the process.

48.20 Anon: [a comment barely audible about regular information]

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