For many years , organisations within the Scottish Borders discussed, both independently and cooperatively, the option of undertaking an aerial survey of the Tweed catchment. Although all agreed that such a survey would be invaluable to their everyday work, high costs and insufficient resources to take the project forward were an issue. Between 2005 and 2006, Tweed Forum staff consulted with members to assess the usefulness of carrying out an aerial survey on Tweed and to determine whether it was a feasible option that would benefit all in their everyday work.
In order to determine this, a series of papers were written which set out to inform members of the different options, their relevant merits and drawbacks, as well as to ascertain through a questionnaire what members want and gauge the level of support for developing such an initiative. Results from the questionnaire were unanimous with 82% of responses claiming that an aerial survey on Tweed would benefit their everyday work. Potential uses identified included:-
• Habitat survey (Phase 1) of the Tweed catchment – identify key species and habitats which are used to plan and target future conservation, restoration and enhancement initiatives;
• Provide baseline information for a large catchment scale wetland habitat network project – there is a clear indication that the work of many conservation bodies and landowners is beginning to join up and form a robust ecological network. There is a need to build on this and identify areas that can be created and expanded whether it is wetlands, woodlands, waterside margins or wood pasture and aerial photos would be an invaluable tool for strategic targeting purposes;
• All areas of local authority planning department work including rural and urban planning and development;
• Geomorphological and hydrogeomorphological assessment, particularly in relation to engineering works in rivers and the potential long term, cumulative effects on the river and water environment;
• As a means to determine changes in agricultural production and land use as a result, for example, of CAP reform processes and revision to the Rural Stewardship Scheme;
• Highlighting areas of diffuse pollution in the catchment and targeting suitable techniques to mitigate damage to the water environment through planning;
• Sustainable floodplain restoration identification, planning and targeting of initiatives as a means of reducing and managing flood risk on a catchment scale;
• Identification of existing access and recreational facilities which are used to plan and target new initiatives as well as providing baseline information required to devise a routine maintenance programme;
• Identification and monitoring of existing archaeological sites;
• Coastal monitoring of algal blooms, near shore habitat mapping and bathymetry (depth of water bodies)
• Used by Forum members for their area of work e.g. assessing in-stream habitat for fish or moorland habitat for black grouse etc.
The next stage of the scoping exercise involved establishing a more detailed costing for the survey; ascertain the conditions of the licensing agreement; and determine possible funding opportunities. Cost estimates were received from two organisations capable of providing the imagery required for the Tweed catchment namely; Ordnance Survey and GetMapping. Both companies were asked to provide quotations in relation to costings and licensing agreements. Given the complex nature of the membership of Tweed Forum, it was agreed that GetMapping would be able to supply aerial photography for the Tweed catchment to the members of the Tweed Forum with an unrestricted licence to use the data for any business purpose of its members.
The delivery of the Project fell to Scottish Borders Council, which was divided into two stages. The first stage involved the commissioning of GetMapping to undertake an aerial survey of the Tweed catchment, and the second stage involved adding value to the aerial survey data by commissioning a Phase 1 habitat survey. Costs for the project totalled around £120,000, with the Scottish Borders Council contributing £50,000 towards the project, £50,000 funded through Leader+ and the remaining £20,000 contribution being obtained through support from the Tweed Forum members and in-kind contributions. Data from the aerial survey is available publicly through the SBC website so that all members of the Scottish Borders community will have access to and benefit from the project.