Threatened biological database saved after public opposition

Polly Hamilton, assistant director for culture, sport and tourism at Rotherham Council
Polly Hamilton, assistant director for culture, sport and tourism at Rotherham Council
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A vast database detailing plant and animal sightings in parts of Yorkshire for 40 years has been saved after a huge wave of opposition - but it will come at a cost.

Rotherham Biological Records Centre had been threatened under cost cutting measures announced by Rotherham Council. But, following a wave of opposition voiced through a public consultation, a plan has been agreed to secure its future, by raising the charges to use the service.

“We were very pleased by the large response we received to the consultation,” said Polly Hamilton, the Rotherham Council’s assistant director for Culture, Sport and Tourism.

“So I’m delighted that we’ve found a way of continuing the service, which will now operate on a more financially sustainable basis.”

The future of the important ecological database, holding details of more than 1.75 million animal and plant sightings, became increasingly uncertain amid authority budget cuts announced last year.

As well as responding to commercial requests for data, the centre helps inform planning decisions and support bids for funding with the information it holds.

Rotherham Council consulted on proposals that it should no longer host the centre, in a bid to reduce costs as it aims to save at least £41 million over three years.

However, the authority has said, the consultation generated a large number of responses, with many concerns raised about the possible impact. The authority says the current charges for using the service are low compared to others across the country.

“Adjusting these charges to bring them more into line with typical rates elsewhere will generate additional income that will help to secure the future of the centre at a time when the council is no longer able to subsidise the service as it has done before,” said Ms Hamilton.

“We are pleased that we can now develop the valuable work of the centre with the continuing support of its many dedicated volunteers and partners.”