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Welsh Government plans to tackle agricultural river pollution branded ‘draconian’ and a ‘betrayal’ to farmers

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Lesley Griffiths MS, the Welsh Government Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs has announced regulations to tackle agricultural pollution in Wales – a move heavily criticised by farming unions and opposition politicians.

The Welsh Government say agricultural pollution incidents remain very high, averaging over three per week in the last three years. Some of these have led to the contamination of drinking water sources and the destruction of plant and aquatic life in parts of Wales’ waterways.

They insist the regulations are proportionate to the risks of pollution, with farmers who already operate to recommended standards seeing a minimal impact to their practices.

The Farmers’ Union of Wales however said today’s announcement makes a mockery of devolution by failing to address Welsh concerns and needs. They maintain the legislation will mean the phasing across Wales of what are effectively EU rules currently in place in intensively farmed areas –  designate the whole of Wales as an EU Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ), an area more than forty times bigger than the current Welsh NVZ area, and eleven times bigger than what was recommended by NRW.

FUW president Glyn Roberts said: “The blank sheet of devolution and Brexit allows Welsh Government to design a bespoke system which would target problem areas without being disproportionate and costing the farming industry hundreds of millions – including in areas where there are no problems.

“This was precisely the recommendation of NRW, the FUW and others in a report presented to Welsh Government in 2018.”

Mr Roberts said that instead the Welsh Government has taken the draconian and unimaginative move of taking off-the-shelf regulations and applying them for the whole of Wales.

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“As with the current white paper proposals for agricultural support, which simply copies a Defra plan, this announcement makes a mockery of devolution, and marks a betrayal of the principles of evidence-based decision making,” added Mr Roberts.

“NRW had previously advised the Welsh Government against implementing the legislation, warning it could have the perverse outcome of making pollution worse, while also warning of the severe resource implications of such a draconian move.

“It is now essential that members of the senedd stand up for what is best for Wales as this legislation is considered, rather than adding to the erosion of devolution that this legislation symbolises,” said Mr Roberts.

Lesley Griffiths MS, the Welsh Government Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, said: “Agricultural pollution has affected water bodies across Wales for far too long and I am determined to act to protect the Welsh countryside, while supporting our farmers that want to do the right thing.

“We continue to face a rate of more than three agricultural pollution incidents per week, and against such a backdrop, we are bound to do all we can protect the public and the environment.”

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“I have given the industry every opportunity over the past four years to address the issue and bring those who are polluting our rivers in line with the many farmers who care for the environment.

“Wales was the first country in the world to declare a climate emergency and the only country who has enshrined in law a framework that requires us to think of our future generations. The Wales we leave today must be fit for our children and grandchildren, and it is all of our responsibility to uphold these standards.”

“Part of this is upholding exceptional water quality to protect our beautiful countryside and wildlife, and our drinking and bathing water for which we all depend on for our health, too.

“This also provides an opportunity for farmers to uphold exceptional standards that in turn will bolster the image of Wales’ agricultural industry.”

Janet Finch-Saunders MS, the Shadow Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs described the decision for Wales to transition to a nitrate vulnerable zone (NVZ) covering the whole of the country from 1 April as a “… betrayal, and a kick in the teeth for the Welsh farming sector when it least needs it”.

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“We’re 10 months into this crisis, a crisis that has had a dramatic effect on all sectors of business including farming, and the Environment Minister decides to take these steps now, hitting farmers when they’re down. It’s especially worse, a betrayal in fact, because she had previously said she wouldn’t look at doing this while we were still going through the pandemic.

“Time and again, over so many issues, the Welsh Government has taken a blanket approach to a problem forcing everyone to suffer. This time its farmers who are going to endure the government’s inability to deal – in a proportionate way – with what the farming industry acknowledges is a problem.”

“There is real despair within our rural communities at the lack of understanding by Labour of issues outside Cardiff Bay, and today’s announcement is a real kick in the teeth for the Welsh farming sector when it least needs it. The Minister must reverse this decision immediately, or face alienating further still Welsh farmers.”


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Ammanford

Man who filmed rape on Ammanford victim’s phone changes plea mid trial

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A man who filmed himself raping an Ammanford woman on his victim’s phone has changed his plea to guilty midway through his trial.

Cameron Hassan, aged 31, of no fixed abode, attacked the woman, raping her as she slept on 21 August 2021.

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Hassan had been on trial at Swansea Crown Court after denying any wrongdoing. However, after the jury was shown the video of the attack and hearing the victim was going to give evidence yesterday (Tuesday, 10 May), Hassan changed his plea to guilty.

Investigating Officer DC Sophie Lambert from Dyfed Powys Police said the victim had shown great strength and determination throughout the investigation.

“I must commend her tremendous courage in coming forward and the tenacity shown throughout the investigation,” she said.

“We hope this case demonstrates that Dyfed-Powys Police acts on serious allegations such as rape and sexual assault with officers working tirelessly to secure justice for victims.

“If you are suffering because of similar abuse, please contact the police, or if you would rather speak to someone in confidence, New Pathways are an independent charity that will support you through every step of the investigation.”

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New Pathways can be contacted at 01685 379 310 or email enquiries@newpathways.org.uk

(Lead image: Google Maps)

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Carmarthenshire

Women’s Tour of Britain returns to Carmarthenshire

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The countdown is on before the world’s top women riders will race through Carmarthenshire as part of the Women’s Tour of Britain.

Some 108 cyclists will race through the County to the finishing line on top of the Black Mountain between Llangadog and Brynamman as part of the stage five event on Friday, June 10.

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The route will be starting from Pembrey Country Park at 10.45am and riders competing for the title will go through Pinged, Carway, Pontyberem, Horeb, Llansawel, and Llangadog.

A rolling road closure will take place along the 65-mile route which will come into action at 10.45am until 1.50pm.

Roads will be re-opened once the cyclists have passed through. A full road closure will be in place over the Black Mountain from 5am-5pm.

The event will be broadcast on ITV4 and across Europe with a helicopter camera crew following the race.

The Women’s Tour departs on Monday, June 6, and coincides with the final day of a four-day Bank Holiday weekend in the UK to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee. The race will culminate with a prestigious finale six days later on Saturday, June 11.

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Pembrey Country Park previously hosted the Grand Départ of the men’s Tour of Britain as well as the overall finish of the Women’s Tour in 2019.

Carmarthenshire County Council’s Chief Executive, Wendy Walters said: “We are thrilled that we have again been chosen to host this top cycling event. Previous years have brought an immediate economic boost to the tourism sector as well as providing a great deal of positive media coverage.”

(Lead image: Carmarthenshire Council)

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Dyfed Powys Police

Man banned from driving for 12 months for fishing offence

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A man from Merthyr Tydfil who travelled to the River Loughor, near Llanelli to fish using a barbaric and illegal method, has been banned from driving for 12 months as part of his sentence.

Vu Quang Tien pleaded guilty to an illegal fishing charge and also to a charge of obstruction of a Natural Resources Wales (NRW) Fisheries Enforcement Officer on 26 April at Swansea Magistrates Court.

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Mr Tien and two other anglers were witnessed by NRW Fisheries Enforcement Officers deliberately using the illegal foul hooking method of fishing – also known as snatching – at the river Loughor on 15 August 2021. NRW officers attended the site after several reports of illegal fishing were made to NRW’s 24/7 incident call centre by concerned members of the community.

When approached and questioned by NRW officers, Mr Tien and his accomplices showed significant hostility and reluctance to share identification documents which eventually had to be extracted by use of reasonable force.

All of Mr Tien’s fishing tackle and fish, along with his associates’ fishing tackle was seized by NRW Officers at the time of the incident. The district judge on the day at Swansea Magistrates Court gave permission to NRW to confiscate these items permanently from each of them.

The District Judge disqualified Mr Tien from driving for 12 months due to seriousness of the incident, and the premeditated and deliberate action of travelling such a distance to commit the offence.

He was also ordered to pay a total of £2,334 in fines, NRW costs and a victim surcharge.

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Mark Thomas, Fisheries Enforcement Officer for NRW, said: “We would like to again thank Dyfed Powys Police, the local communities and also the law-abiding anglers in the area for their continued support in reporting these illegal fishing activities.

“Foul hooking is a truly barbaric form of fishing carried out by a small minority of anglers in Wales, who have no regard for fish welfare.

“NRW and the Police take these incidents seriously as do the courts.

“Hopefully, the small minority of anglers who may in future, think of using any illegal fishing methods will take heed of the heavy fines and driving ban in this case issued by the courts.”

(Lead image: Natural Resources Wales)

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