Bexley Natural Environment Forum (the umbrella body for Friends of Parks and Open Spaces groups, local wildlife experts and conservationists and sustainability campaigners in the Borough) has decided to put relatively more effort into growing the membership and activity of its affiliated groups over the coming year, as well as seeking to help initiate the formation of new groups where none currently exist.
Chair Dr. Ray Gray summarised the activity of the Forum throughout the year, which included responding to a number of strategic planning documents from the GLA and Bexley Council, making a significant contribution to the 2013 Bexley Sites of Importance of Nature Conservation Review (which, with the partial review of 2011, has seen the Forum get 3 new sites designated and 2 others expanded) and putting forward alternative, more biodiversity-friendly, proposals to various planning applications. The group had had a number of talks relevant to its work, covering various issues and management of particular wildlife sites in the Borough.
Vice-chair Chris Rose led a debate about the organisation, activity and future direction of the Forum. He thought that the flow of consultation documents was now slowing down and, important as it was to try and influence underlying Council policy, both this task and making sufficiently detailed responses to planning applications was massively time-consuming and with the planning system stacked heavily against us, he suggested it now needed to concentrate more on building ‘Team Environment Bexley’, both within and without the BNEF umbrella.
The meeting agreed with the analysis that only by increasing the numbers of groups and of individuals taking a visible and, ideally, active, interest in nature, could we expect to develop the sort of influence we now need to more often secure the sorts of policy and site management outcomes we are looking for. The recent setting up of the Bexley Wildlife website and Facebook pages, in conjunction with the Greener Bexley charity, was seen as an important step in that direction.
Ray and Chris were re-elected unopposed, and will be bringing together an enlarged executive committee in order to increase the group’s capacity to deal with myriad strategic and day-to-day biodiversity issues in Bexley.