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Annual Report April 2008 to March 2009


Front photo courtesy of National Trust and Northern Ireland Tourist Board


COMPANY INFORMATION Directors G Best J Blaney C Calvert G Campbell J Crilly M Dobson T Duffy T Enright C Hamill D Kinahan (Appointed 12/6/08) M Lucas (Resigned 12/6/08) I McDougall (Appointed 23/6/08) J McMullan – Co-opted Treasurer E Rainey (Resigned 23/6/08) J Rodgers (Resigned 2/9/08) T Russell I Simpson Independent Chair D O’Connor Company Secretary J Bradley Company Number NI053189 Charity Ref no XR70288 Auditors FGS McClure Watters Thomas House 14-16 James St South Belfast BT2 0HW Bankers First Trust Bank 2/4 Finaghy Road North Belfast BT10 0JA Solicitors Cleaver Fulton Rankin 50 Bedford Street Belfast BT2 7FW


CHAIRMAN’S REPORT It’s a privilege to take up the post of Chair and to present this first report. When I took up the position in February 2009 I knew that I was following on from your excellent former Chair, Ken Patterson who had set high standards right across the range of exciting work being carried out by the Partnership. I am therefore reporting on much work that I have not been involved in and would hope that I can give a more independent assessment of what the Partnership has done in this last year. The detail of our work in 2008-2009 is given in the manager’s report but I am happy to say that the Partnership has continued to develop and deliver on what we have set out to achieve within this year. I will highlight just a few of the positive projects the partnership has been involved in. Key highlights were the first of biodiversity surveys which investigated the status of our upland heath and the Irish Hare. These were crucial in establishing just where we were in terms of extent of habitat and population estimates, so we can now judge whether these key parts of the Belfast Hills are in decline or responding positively to active management. Our new focus on invasive species projects has been timely as their negative impacts become more and more apparent. Another big step has been the increasing willingness of those involved in major developments to come to us before the planning application stage and discuss how best to minimize any negative impacts their plans might have. These have included major telecommunications masts, possible wind farms and large waste facilities. I would contend that this shows that our voice is listened to, that we are very willing to work with all sectors and that a true partnership approach is the way forward for all planning issues. We may not agree with the final proposals but we

firmly believe that we help all those involved in working to achieve better planning decisions and sustainable development. Thirdly, I would point to the incremental improvements in visitor facilities across all our public sites. This is evidence of the commitment of our site partners to respond to the growing numbers of visitors and tourists who see the quality and value of the Hills’ landscape, wildlife and heritage. Such improvements will not stop there and need a strategic focus to ensure we meet the needs of these visitors and the Belfast area as a whole. In these harsh economic times we must all be prepared to change course when necessary. We will shortly be applying for our third round of core funding from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Belfast and Lisburn City Councils and Newtownabbey and Antrim Borough Councils. Over the years of our establishment and growth, they have been invaluable in supporting us and it is to their credit that so much has been achieved. We look to them to continue supporting the Partnership. Key to the progress of the Partnership is the dedicated staff supported by the Board members and a range of volunteers. After many years of working out of the Colin Glen Trust premises, the Partnership has acquired new offices in the Social Economy Village at Hannahstown. From here the Partnership aims to continue its mission of caring for the Hills, their wildlife and people and developing them for managed and sustainable use. I commend this report to the Meeting. Danny O’Connor


PARTNERSHIP MANAGER’S REPORT Introduction Great strides have been taken this year with a marked increase in our project work and relocation to new offices. In keeping with our sustainable development initiative model, work areas are grouped under Environmental, Economic and Social plus Corporate work. ENVIRONMENTAL Biodiversity Upland heath and Irish hare survey projects were completed. The studies raised concerns about populations of Irish hare and the impact of fires upon upland heath. Funding was secured for 2008-2010 from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency for our Colin River Invasive Species Project. Mapping and controlling Japanese Knotweed and Himalayan Balsam began. Our recording key species campaign was successful - boosted by our Biodiversity Booklet and CD-Rom. We spearheaded biodiversity research projects, including a palaeoecological study. Land Management and Landscape Co-operation with site managers has continued. Fire maps were updated in partnership with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) who we successfully nominated for an environmental award. Along with senior nature conservation staff it was agreed to investigate a Belfast Hills Landscape Partnership Project - similar to those funded by Heritage Lottery Fund. Our Landscape Assessment Report has been drafted. ECONOMIC Agriculture General information on the new Countryside Management Scheme and information on the Rural Development Programme were published for farmers. An information sheet on

hedges was produced and circulated along with a government guide on managing farm boundaries. Waste We were involved in a number of key waste management proposals. A number of court cases have also been held and fines imposed. We continued to lobby Roads Service concerning key roads affected by commercial and other traffic. SOCIAL Access and Recreation The National Trust secured funding for the Divis Mountain to Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park Nature Trail which is to be in place by August 2009. Path works at McArt’s Fort and at Glenside Community Woodland were completed in March 2009. A recreation audit was completed in February 2009. A Recreation Development Plan for the Belfast Hills will be produced this year. Events A review of our past event programmes was completed in early 2009 and an expanded programme developed for 2009-2010. We held three photographic exhibitions in 2008-2009 and more are planned for 20092010.


Community Work with Colin Neighbourhood Partnership and Ligoniel Community Association has begun to map out and publicise path networks linked to the Belfast Hills. Our healthy walking programme has been launched on our website and within our events programme. This will be useful for access work and local projects. A substantial amount of historical information has been gathered and will be collated in terms of townlands as part of a Heritage Lottery Fund proposal. Additional links will be made with work being compiled by the heritage officer at Colin Glen Trust. Our long term volunteers have assisted with invasive species, landscape and office duties. After preparatory work the Friends Group will be launched in July 2009.

in February 2009. The second was an update on the 2005 Baseline Study. Finally, Danny O’Connor was appointed as our new Chair to replace Ken Patterson who stood down after three years of sterling work. On a personal note, I extend my thanks to Ken for his stalwart support and guidance and to Danny for continuing this strong support. Key Outputs o o o o o

Communications We have been very successful in achieving greater coverage of our work and projects via press coverage, our own newsletters and website content and visibility, including partner sites, and events. We began uploading access, landscape and biodiversity information on a Geographical Information System (GIS) computer mapping system. Our partners are also availing of this system.

o o o o o o

CORPORATE

o

New offices at the Social Economy Village on Hannahstown Hill were leased which we hopeo will serve as an excellent base for years to come. Two major documents were drafted this year as key components of planning and securing funding for our future work. The first - a vision of the future sustainable development of the Belfast Hills and the Partnership - was drafted

o

Launch of Belfast Hills Biodiversity Booklet and CD-ROM 2008-2009 newsletters and event programmes produced Irish Hare and Upland Heath surveys completed Colin Glen Invasive Species Project begun Summer fires surveying and mapping initiated McArt’s Fort and Glenside path improvements Divis Dixon Link project - funding secured and work initiated Final representations made at BMAP and to planning applications and consultation Healthy walking programme initiated GIS computer mapping system up and running Belfast Hills Vision and Baseline Study reports drafted Research projects facilitated including palaeoecological study New Chair and offices

Jim Bradley Partnership Manager


BELFAST HILLS PARTNERSHIP 2009-2010 WORK PLAN Introduction These work areas arise from the 2007-2010 Business Plan and represent primarily the project work to be carried out beyond our core functions. These include our ongoing event programme, planning responses, board meetings, administration and volunteer work. In keeping with our sustainable development initiative model, these have been grouped under the three headings of Environmental, Economic and Social. The fourth heading of Corporate deals with work activities specifically aimed at best management of the Partnership in support of delivering the three key work areas.

Land Management – We will 1. continue to seek securing of the Cemex quarry site for biodiversity and access. 2. secure new management arrangements for Glenside Community Woodland. 3. continue with our site managers’ network meetings and joint projects investigations. 4. research, formulate and seek funding for a joint Landscape Partnership Project. Landscape – We will 1. complete our Belfast Hills Landscape Audit and then 2. formulate a Belfast Hills Landscape Policy based on above audit.

ENVIRONMENTAL Biodiversity – We will 1. develop the Colin Glen Invasive Species project as a best practice model and investigate mapping other sites and river systems. 2. renew public site fire maps annually for the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and survey and record new fire sites to aid future impact monitoring. 3. initiate a Hazelwood Invasive Project in conjunction with Belfast City Council; compiling wildlife records and making practical wildlife improvements at this key site.

ECONOMIC Agriculture – We will 1. publicise and encourage CMS entry for farmers/landowners. 2. create and circulate new information sheets for the above. 3. publicise information about and formulate bids for Rural Development Programme projects. Waste – We will 1. work with NIEA and other statutory bodies to play a positive part in waste developments.


2. lobby Roads Service beyond site issues and highlight the need to plan and upgrade the road system for commercial traffic use. 3. encourage the use of HIA in development assessment. 4. play a positive part in arc21 plans and other waste developments. SOCIAL Access and Recreation – We will 1. assist in the Divis to Dixon Link Project, its publicity and other access link projects 2. formulate a Belfast Hills Recreation Development Plan based on last year’s Recreation Audit.

Community – We will 1. assist local community groups in mapping out local access to the Hills in urban areas. 2. publicise and develop the healthy walking programme. 3. initiate and bid for funding for a local community heritage project. 4. continue to seek funding for a Biodiversity/Landscape Outreach officer to expand outreach work across key areas. Communications – We will 1. print and distribute our new map guide. 2. continue with photographic exhibition, press work and web site improvements. 3. build up the information databases on our GIS Database computer system and procure licences for a range of mapping projects. 4. initiate visitor surveys and research suitable outdoor information and interpretation systems. CORPORATE We will compile a common Belfast Hills Vision as an aid to forward planning. We will develop our new offices as a suitable base for the Belfast Hills Partnership. We will compile our 2010-2013 Business Plan, funding bids and other documents required for securing core funding. We will encourage and facilitate research to gain useful knowledge and raise awareness about the Belfast Hills.

Events – We will 1. distribute, publicise and deliver our 20092010 events programme and plan our 20102011 programme 2. hold seminars/meetings on key issues such as upland heath and/or invasive species work.


BELFAST HILLS PARTNERSHIP INCOME & EXPENDITURE 2008-2009

2009 £

2008 £

GROSS INCOME

179,115

150,884

GROSS EXPENDITURE

197,812

128,187

SURPLUS/(DEFICIT)

(18,697)

YEAR END RESERVES

42,441

22,697

* 61,138

*The £61,138 figure in 2007-2008 included an agreed figure of £19,891 carryover of funds for Office Relocation Costs. The £18,697 deficit in 2008-2009 is due to that expenditure; therefore in effect a modest increase in reserves has been achieved.

This summary is based on the External Audit Report for 2008-2009 carried out by FGS McClure Watters. (See full Audit Accounts for details).


PARTNERSHIP STAFF & DIRECTORS Staff Dr Jim Bradley - Partnership Manager Dr Lizzy Pinkerton - Hills Project Officer Andrea McKernon – Communication and Information Officer (PT) Admin Officer Post (PT) – Pending Volunteer Admin Assistant – Ruby Kirkland Independent Chair Danny O’Connor Directors The Directors on the Board and the bodies to which they belong are as follows: COMMUNITIES / USERS Communities Timothy Duffy - Colin Glen Trust Jim Blaney - Glen Road Environmental Action Group Local Conservation Groups Terry Enright - Black Mountain Environment Group Cormac Hamill - Cave Hill Conservation Campaign Recreation Groups Ian McDougall – Northern Ireland Sports Forum LANDOWNING / MANAGING Farmers George Campbell - Ulster Farmers Union Ian Simpson - Ulster Farmers Union Local Economic Tracy Russell - Belfast Hills Waste Management Operators Quarries Gordon Best - NI Quarry Products Association Nature Conservation Mike Dobson - The National Trust

STATUTORY Cllr. Danny Kinahan - Antrim Borough Council Pending - Belfast City Council Alderman Cecil Calvert - Lisburn City Council Cllr. Janet Crilly - Newtownabbey Borough Council Treasurer John McMullan (Co-opted Director)


BHP MISSION & OBJECTIVES The mission for the Belfast Hills Partnership is To provide a practical and integrated management mechanism for the Belfast Hills thereby contributing to the conservation, protection and enhancement of its natural, built and cultural heritage and providing for responsible countryside enjoyment. To contribute to the quality of life of communities on the fringes of the Belfast Hills, rural residents of the area and to the wider urban & rural environment. To work in partnership with others towards the realisation of the Belfast Hills vision, within a Belfast Hills Sustainable Development Initiative.

The strategic aims of the Partnership are to

Core funded by: Antrim Borough Council Belfast City Council Northern Ireland Environment Agency (Department of the Environment) Lisburn City Council Newtownabbey Borough Council

Conserve, protect and enhance the natural, cultural and built heritage of the Belfast Hills. Encourage individuals, communities and organisations to care for the Belfast Hills. Raise awareness of the value of the Belfast Hills and of issues relating to their protection. Manage existing recreational use of the Belfast Hills. Support and assist farmers and landowners under pressure from urban development, and from inappropriate forms of countryside recreation. Contribute to the economic regeneration of communities in the Belfast Hills and adjoining city. Contribute to a positive image of Belfast, Lisburn, Newtownabbey and Antrim through an attractive, well managed and functioning visual backdrop to these areas.

9 Social Economy Village, Hannahstown Hill, Belfast BT17 0XS Tel: (028) 90603466 Fax: (028) 90309867 Email: info@belfasthills.org www.belfasthills.org


Has been kindly supported in 2008-2009 by:

Macwill Services

Annual Report 2009  
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