Working with local government

part of the draft Neighbourhood Development Plan habitats and green space map for Stonehouse

The majority of Local Environmental Records Centres maintain close relationships with County, Borough and District Councils, often via Service Level Agreements. GCER is no exception: we provide regular updates of protected species and Local Sites information to Gloucestershire County Council, Stroud District Council, Forest of Dean District Council, Cotswold District Council and Cheltenham Borough Council.

In addition to supplying District and Borough Councils with data, GCER can help at a more local level with Town and Parish Councils in the process of creating Village Design Plans or Neighbourhood Development Plans. Click here for a printable flyer with details of how GCER can assist with town or parish plans.

Working with national agencies

National agencies such as the Environment Agency, Natural England and the Forestry Commission need conservation evidence in order to plan, carry out and monitor their responsibilities. GCER has a direct Memorandum of Agreement with the Environment Agency, and we also provide data for projects for other agencies as and when appropriate.

A protected species: Water Vole |Arvicola amphibius|Photo: Linda Moore

Advantages of a Service Level Agreement

Having an ongoing agreement with a Local Environmental Records Centre is a cost-effective way for Local Authorities and public bodies to access the data they need and to mobilise their own data in order to comply with environmental legislation and policies. LERCs can greatly reduce the need for duplication of effort. They can also mobilise sources of data and volunteer expertise which are not available to government agencies.

At the LERC, disparate sources of data can be referred to experts for validation, processed to provide a useful county-wide dataset, and provided to local and national recording groups to help with their work (which in turn feeds back into high-quality data collection). Using GCER as a data hub therefore offers economies of scale alongside access to data which has been collated, validated and made available in a format which is straightforward for authorities to use alongside their many other GIS resources.

GCER volunteer work almost all falls within "skilled" or "professional" categories, valued respectively by the HLF and other funding bodies at up to £180 and £360 per day; Service Level Agreements tap into this valuable effort not otherwise available to government bodies.

Sharing data, costs and benefits

  • LERCs provide Local Authorities with unique access to data and support from highly-knowledgeable volunteers
  • Pooling records from County Recorders, members of the public and professional conservationists helps to identify gaps in knowledge as well as build a picture of where local wildlife is most evident
  • The benefits of training, experience, social contact and increased confidence for volunteers contribute to local and national government targets for health, wellbeing and job suitability
  • Supporting LERCs helps provide invaluable information for national biodiversity targets and, via the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, international research

Flexible arrangements

Organisations can request additional GCER services outside of a set Agreement. These may be added to the agreed service work, or negotiated as a separate one-off piece of work at a suitable rate.

GCER will not normally carry out work which involves direct representation of another organisation, due to the need to remain impartial and concentrate our efforts on providing the best available data. We may, however, analyse and interpret data for a specific purpose or campaign, e.g. for public information websites, displays and presentations. Such work can be added to agreed service work if the need arises.

Some Service Level Agreements specify a certain number of included data searches or other services, beyond which GCER's normal commercial rates apply. This allows seamless continuation of work at times when demand is much higher than expected, without losing the advantage of lower, agreed rates for the rest of the year's work. See here for more information about typical commercial data search rates.