THE State of the Environment in Devon and Torbay is the focus of a new report.
The online report, produced by Devon County Council on behalf of Natural Devon, looks at the current condition of the local environment and explores the fundamental relationship with nature for economic prosperity, health and wellbeing.
The full report is split into 13 subject areas which have a key influence on the overall condition of Devon and Torbay’s environment. These include everything from people and economy, to historic environment and land use.
It highlights many positive aspects of Devon and Torbay’s environment which are performing well and have experienced improvements over the past decade. Among them are:
• The total area of woodland in Devon, Torbay and Plymouth has increased by 19% since 2002, an increase of 12,379 hectares;
• The spotted flycatcher bird is bucking the national trend and showing large increases, and Devon remains a stronghold for dormice;
• Between 2008/09 and 2012/13, waste collected by local authorities in Devon reduced by 13.8% and in Torbay by 14.7%. Waste recycling rates in Devon and Torbay have increased substantially to 55.3% in Devon, and 42.7% in Torbay;
• Devon has the highest installed renewable electricity and heat capacity of any local authority area in the South West.
It also identifies pressures that need to be considered in decision making, and explores trends which may impact on the future condition of the environment. A number of elements need improvement:
• 83% of estuaries and 56% of coastal waters in the south west do not meet good status;
• Whilst national figures show that carbon emissions arising from Devon and Torbay have reduced by about 20% since 2005, our contribution to global emissions due to the goods and services we buy from overseas is increasing at a faster rate; total emissions are now 10% higher than they were in 1993;
• There are 14 Air Quality Management Areas in Devon and Torbay designated for high levels of nitrogen dioxide related to road traffic;
• There has been a gradual increase in the area of Devon disturbed by noise and visual intrusion, rising from 9% in the 1960s to 31% in 2007, and this is likely to continue as population and development pressures increase.
Suzanne Goodfellow, Chair of Natural Devon, said: “It is important that the focus of our activities is guided by sound evidence. The State of Environment Report follows the publication of the State of Nature Report earlier this year, and provides a broader insight into the environmental issues that Natural Devon’s seven priority themes are working to address.
"The pressure on the environment from development, intensive agriculture and climate change continues to require careful management. The State of Environment report provides the baseline information to help us work together to make the right decisions for Devon.”
Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Community and Environmental Services, said: “Devon has an outstanding environment which underpins our economy and is enjoyed by both residents and visitors.
"We have two stunning coastlines, two national parks and five areas of outstanding natural beauty that make Devon a very special place. Our high recycling rates, increasing use of renewable energy, and clean bathing waters are real success stories. However, continued pressure on the environment from development and climate change requires careful management.
"The State of Environment report provides the baseline information to help us work together to make the right decisions for Devon.”
Torbay Council’s Executive Lead for Safer Communities, Highways, Environment and Sport, Councillor Robert Excell said: “Torbay Council is pleased to be working in partnership with our neighbouring local authorities on the State of the Environment Report.
"This report provides useful facts and figures about the environment in Torbay and Devon, and helps us understand the range, quantity and quality of natural assets of which we are privileged to be custodians.
"As Torbay is recognised as a UNESCO Geopark, I was pleased to see that over 92% of Sites of Special Scientific Interest are in “favourable” condition, and it is our aim to continue to look after our natural environment and make the most of the health and economic benefits that a good environment can bring to the community.”
The report will reduce repetition of data collection between authorities in Devon and Torbay that need access to environmental data. It will be regularly updated and will be used by the Local Nature Partnership to monitor environmental quality while also forming part of the evidence base for the Devon Health and Wellbeing Board’s Joint Strategic Needs Assessment.
The report can be viewed online at www.naturaldevon.org.uk/state-of-environment