Poots welcomes new appointments to the Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside (CNCC)

Date published: 02 December 2021

Environment Minister Edwin Poots has announced the appointment of nine new members to the Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside (CNCC):


Amit Bhagwat, Ms Clare Dore, Mr John Martin, Dr Stephen McCarron, Mr Ian McKee, Dr Michael Meharg, Miss Laura Neal, Mr Noel Rice and Mrs Rosemary Thomas.

The appointments to the DAERA Statutory Advisory Body are effective for a three year term from 1 December 2021.

Confirming the new appointments, Minister Edwin Poots MLA said:

“The CNCC perform a key role in providing expertise to DAERA policy makers in nature protection.

"I want to welcome the new CNCC members who bring an array of knowledge, skills and experience, not only in matters relating to the environment and the countryside, but also in governance, leadership and decision making, which are essential in executing the valued statutory functions of the CNCC.”

CNCC’s statutory functions include advising the Department on matters relating to nature conservation including Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Areas of Special Scientific Interest and nature reserves.

It also provides advice on the protection of wildlife species and on promotional and educational activities.

Notes to editors: 

1. The Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside (CNCC) was established in 1989 under the provisions of the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1989.  Its statutory role is also covered by the provisions of The Environment (Northern Ireland) Order 2002.

2. Biographical Details of the new Members are listed below:

Amit Bhagwat following a distinguished academic and early professional career at all-India and international level, Amit moved to Europe in 2001 where he has maintained a global outlook in his multi-dimensional career across research and programme leadership, boards, public accountability and learned institutions. Amit has chaired/served in responsible roles, gaining over four decades of cumulative board background, leading sensitive public sector assessments/reviews and advancing knowledge, professional ethics and values across learned and professional institutions. He presently serves in three public appointments in GB, including as a Senior Independent Board Member, and holds chairing duties in three institutions, two in international research and learning context, with advice/liaison across and beyond OECD.  Amit has contributed to conservation research and development: horizontal studies, youth work, industry-recognised leadership in carbon neutral built-environment design, sustainability research grants assessment, expert advice to Environmental Audit Select Committee and sustainable transport planning.

Clare Dore graduated in Botany at Leeds University and has a Masters in Environmental Management from Ulster University. She has worked on nature conservation projects all over the UK including Shetland, the Scottish Highlands and Islands, Wales and England. Clare acted as an Observer on both the Causeway Coast AONB and the Antrim Coast & Glens and Rathlin AONB Management Groups. She is a member of the RSPB, the BSBI, Butterfly Conservation UK and Ulster Wildlife. She volunteers for the British Trust for Ornithology, carrying out bird surveys in her local area.

John Martin has volunteered and worked in the environment and conservation sector in Northern Ireland and beyond for over 12 years. The majority of this time has been with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and his current role is ‘Head of Policy and Advocacy’. John is also on the Board of the Mourne Heritage Trust and a founding member of Jubilee farm. John has an MSc in Sustainable Development and BSc in Geography.

Stephen McCarron is a member of the international Quaternary research community, conducting research into Irish onshore and offshore sediment sequences. Since 2005 he has been teaching physical geography courses at Maynooth University in the Department of Geography and managing the Irish Sediment Core Research Facility (ISCORF).  He has most recently been part of the Local Organising Committee for the 20th International INQUA Congress, held in Dublin in July 2019, which attracted in excess of 2300 Quaternary researchers to Ireland.

Ian McKee brings knowledge and expertise in matters affecting agriculture and the environment through his membership of RSPB, UWT, Birdwatch Ireland and National Trust. Ian, through his public sector background brings professional experience in negotiation and advocacy, policy development and engagement with NI, GB, ROI and EU Commission officials.

Michael Meharg has a background in Environmental and Conservation matters. Michael worked in government Biodiversity protection for 30 years. Recently he has moved into the private sector building his long term involvement in conservation grazing with traditional breed cattle, having established a small environmental consultancy specialising in on-farm carbon auditing and providing conservation/wildlife advice. Michael is a member of the UFU, Ulster Wildlife and is a director of the Nature Friendly Farming Network. Michael holds a public appointment as a member of the Tuberculosis Eradication Partnership (remuneration £250 per diem).

Laura Neal has been an in-house Lawyer based in Northern Ireland acting for Friends of the Earth Ltd since October 2018. Laura has been a qualified lawyer for 10 years. She has experience in private legal practice as well as the environmental sector supporting grass roots campaigning organisations in the areas of air quality, land use planning and climate change.

Noel Rice served 34 years in the NI Housing Executive (NIHE) dealing in the early part of his career with land use planning, land acquisition and disposal and programme planning. For the latter 20 years of his career he was NIHE’s Energy Conservation Manager responsible for the development of its energy conservation strategy and the policies and programmes required to implement it. Following his early retirement in 2016 Noel has worked in the Belfast Hills Partnership, an environmental charity that strives to protect the wildlife and improve the biodiversity of the hills. Noel has led volunteers in planting over 6000 trees, creating wildflower meadows, removing invasive species and involving local communities in a range of biodiversity projects. Noel is a Trustee of National Energy Action and also sits on its Audit, Risk & Finance Committee. He is also on the committee of the Mourne Rambling Group.

Rosemary Thomas studied Geography followed by town and country planning at Queen’s University, Belfast. She spent the majority of her working life in the public sector in Wales, in both local and central government. Throughout her career she worked on land use matters, ranging from urban and rural policy, to transportation and energy, as well as forward planning. Rosemary worked in the former Welsh Office’s Agriculture Department prior to her appointment in 2005 as the Welsh Government’s Chief Planner.

3. There is no remuneration payable for the CNCC Member role.

4. Political activity plays no part in the selection process, however, the Commissioner for Public Appointments for Northern Ireland requires the political activity of appointees to be published. One candidate has declared political activity. Mrs Rosemary Thomas canvassed on behalf of the SDLP during the UK General Election December 2019.

5. These appointments have been made in accordance with the Commissioner for Public Appointments for Northern Ireland (CPA NI) Code of Practice.

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7. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office.

8. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800 hrs and 0800 hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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