Public concern forces re-think over Rotherham database

Mark Champion, Lancashire Wildlife Trust's Wigan Projects Manager, in Wigan Flashes to record the different birds there. Picture by Paul Heyes, Sunday January 29, 2017.
Mark Champion, Lancashire Wildlife Trust's Wigan Projects Manager, in Wigan Flashes to record the different birds there. Picture by Paul Heyes, Sunday January 29, 2017.

Biological records holding details of more than 1.75 million animal and plant sightings around Rotherham are to be saved, and the service of the Centre holding them continued, it has been agreed.

Plans are in place to secure the future of the important ecological database following a period of uncertainty, and a public outcry against the possible loss of the service that resulted from a consultation exercise

Proposals that Rotherham’s 40-years old Biological Records Centre should no longer be hosted by the Council were put forward at the beginning of last year.

These were made as the authority sought to find ways to save around £41 million over three years.

But there was a strong response to a consultation, raising concern about the potential impact of such a move, and the matter was referred back to council officers to review any further options available.

“We were very pleased by the large response we received to the consultation,” said Polly Hamilton, the Council’s Assistant Director for Culture, Sport and Tourism.

“So I’m delighted that we’ve found a way of continuing the service, which will now operate on a more financially sustainable basis.”

Research by staff found current charges for using the service to be very low compared to other centres across the country.

Polly added: “Adjusting charges to bring them more into line with rates elsewhere will generate additional income that will help to secure the future of the centre at a time when the Council is no longer able to subsidise the service as it has done.

“We are pleased we can develop the valuable work of Rotherham Biological Records Centre with the continuing support of its dedicated volunteers and partners.”

Council officers will work over the coming months to put the review’s recommendations into practice – enhancing the service provided by the centre and making it more financially resilient for the future.

As well as responding to commercial requests for data, the centre also helps to inform planning decisions and support bids for funding with the information it holds.

The public will be kept updated on any developments at the centre.