Talking about Nature was a series of three community workshops that took place in May 2023. The outputs of the workshops are supporting three town and parish councils in Essex to create local nature plans, informed by the views and priorities of local residents. The benefits for the local councils are that there will be a clear local nature plan, that can make the best use of resources, and that has been directly informed by residents. For the County Council, the workshops are a ‘showcase’ that helps meet ambitions to have deeper community engagement in climate planning for local biodiversity and nature in Essex.
Essex County Council (ECC) successfully applied to be one of five funded ‘Project Group Areas’ for the national Local Climate Engagement (LCE) Programme. Subsequently in Essex, three parishes were chosen to test out further community engagement. That would support the development of a specific nature action plan much more locally.
The one day LCE workshops provided an opportunity for a really local approach, for community voices to be heard and taken forward in the decision-making process, using the expertise of Involve and experienced facilitators. An ECC project team further supported the practical planning and delivery, and local stakeholders in each location helped steer the locally focused content for the workshop.
There was a great deal of insights already known on the issues around climate, biodiversity and green infrastructure across the county https://www.essexclimate.org.uk. It was agreed therefore that a ‘community workshop’ would provide a deeper insight into what was important for people, to support the parish and town council to create and inform their own local nature plan.
It needed a deliberative approach. The workshop aimed to help facilitate a deeper conversation with residents about what’s important to them, to help inform priorities for local nature plans. In turn, the local nature plans created, would complement and support the wider Climate Action Plan developed by the Essex Climate Action Commission across the county.
The approach used was to recruit and work with a group of up to 30 residents in each location (as representative a sample as possible). Recruitment was via promotional campaign led by ECC and supported by each of the parishes in the three different areas.
The overarching question for the three events was:
What should your town council prioritise in their Nature Plan in order to improve and protect nature, wildlife and green spaces in your area?
It was important when working with the parish or local town council to focus on things that make sense locally, so the agenda for the workshop was carefully designed together to explore: What can the council directly control; What can the council influence; Where can the council enable, support and partner.
In each workshop - the participants had group discussions and ended up creating priorities and recommendations back to the local council.
The recommendations are currently being considered, and the local nature plans are in progress. We’ll keep you updated.
Essex County Council are also currently attending LCE training as part of the programme.