Introduction to the guidance manual
23. The generic guidance - history of development




23.1 Agency and JNCC Initiatives
Since 1998, a substantial body of work has been undertaken to refine some of the concepts set out in A statement on common standards for monitoring designated sites and to add the supporting detail necessary to translate the published statement into a working system for site monitoring. This work is included among the references at the end of the chapter.
However, as this work developed it became apparent that there was a danger of differences in approach evolving, and that this could lead to inconsistency in assessment and reporting across the UK. For this reason, it was decided to develop UK-wide guidance.
23.2 UK Guidance
As a result of the need to develop UK-wide guidance a major project was initiated in 2000, with fourteen specialist groups comprising staff from the country agencies and JNCC given the following tasks:
  • to prepare UK guidance on the setting of conservation objectives which define favourable condition for interest features on designated sites. Guidance should include the selection of attributes for assessing feature condition and (where possible) appropriate target values;
  • to provide guidance on how to assess feature condition against the conservation objectives following monitoring;
  • to suggest suitable field methods for the monitoring of feature condition.


23.3 Principles
Several principles were established for the preparation of the UK guidance:
  • it must comply with A Statement on common standards for monitoring designated sites;
  • it should, so far as possible, build on and refine the previous developmental work carried out by the country agencies;
  • it should acknowledge the ecological/geographical variation of features across the UK, and should accommodate, the different practices adopted by the various country agencies, for the practical monitoring of features on sites;
  • it should accommodate the natural variation inherent in habitat features;
  • it should be field-tested prior to being finalised;
  • due consideration should be given to the skills and expertise levels it is reasonable to expect of operational staff undertaking monitoring and condition assessments;
  • the preparation of guidance should include quality assurance / a reality check using experienced local staff and specialists to ensure that the guidance is fully appropriate and that assessments can be reliable and consistent.


23.4 Co-ordination
The work of the specialist groups has been co-ordinated by JNCC to ensure that a consistent approach is adopted across all interest features and that liaison between groups is undertaken where necessary. The newly-established Inter-Agency Monitoring Group (IAMG) maintained an overview of progress and provided fora for discussion of cross-cutting issues.
The preparation of guidance by each group has been a lengthy and iterative process, incorporating review by specialists, feedback from field testing, and quality assurance by JNCC. Evolving thinking on issues such as local distinctiveness and species monitoring is being incorporated into the guidance. Guidance was accepted for dissemination when it had been considered and endorsed by the Chief Scientists' Group.