Letter from the Chair, February 2013

Dear Members

This issue of GNS NEWS gives a good deal of prominence to the Forest of Dean, one of the richest and most interesting parts of our county in terms of biological diversity and nature conservation. We have articles on recording, and articles on conservation issues.  Furthermore GNS is involved (with many other bodies) in an exciting application to the Heritage Lottery Fund which, is approved, should generate considerable funding (several million pounds) for conservation of the natural and cultural heritage of the area, and for developing training and demonstration in this field in the area.

I am writing just after the meeting of the Planning Committee of the Forest of Dean District Council on 13 February, which approved plans for the Cinderford Northern Quarter: these plans involve construction of homes and provision of jobs in the Cinderford area, but the work will pose grave threats to the wildlife of the area (notably to newts, moths, bats and dormice); the high conservation values are well known and documented, but do not appear to have been given adequate consideration in the planning process.  The Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust has been closely involved with putting forward the case for wildlife, and details about the issue are available on their website; as they note, it is still open to the public (and to you as GNS members) to write to the minister concerned (Secretary of State Eric Pickles), asking him to “call in” the plans for further review.  Even if the plans are put into execution, it is by no means clear how the necessary “mitigation” or wildlife compensation measures can be carried out in time: the plans speak of work beginning next autumn, but before work can begin, alternative bat roosts have to be built and adopted by the bats – a process which would normally take years, even if the bats adopt the new roost sties.  Future issues of GNS NEWS (and the GNS website) will of course bring you details of developments.

May I also draw your attention to the forthcoming GNS Annual General Meeting, to be held this year on Cirencester, where we have a very active GNS branch, which has not hosted the AGM for at least ten years.  So, a welcome return.  There will also be a Special General Meeting (as agreed at the 2012 AGM, and mentioned in the Minutes distributed with the summer 2012 issue of GNS NEWS); your Executive Committee has reluctantly come to the conclusion that an increase in subscriptions has become necessary:  GNS subscription levels have not changed for about twenty years, and it is simply not realistic, nor good financial practice, to allow financial reserves, which have been built up over the years through generous bequests from former members, to dwindle away.  I hope that members will support the Committee on this issue: as I have said many times, GNS provides wonderful value: the meetings, the opportunity to contribute to recording of wildlife in the county, the quarterly newsletter (GNS NEWS), the annual “Gloucestershire Naturalist” and Bird Report; so an increase in subscriptions after twenty years is, in the Committee’s opinion, fully justified.

Finally, some sad news: Mrs Mary Palfrey, who had been one of the most active botanists in the county, and had recently stepped down from the Executive Committee, died on 10 February.  A full obituary will appear in the next GNS NEWS.  We shall greatly miss her expertise, and even more her friendly presence at meetings, and devotion to conservation in the county.  Perhaps I may also draw your attention to another recent death at the age of 89 of Professor Geoffrey Matthews, for long years the head of research at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, and a major figure in international wetland conservation.

Looking forward to seeing you at the AGM at Watermoor Hall, Cirencester on Friday 22 March,

Yours sincerely

Mike Smart

Hon Chairman

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