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New Welsh water quality legislation described as being ‘like a criminal electronic tag for farmers’

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Farming unions and opposition politicians have lined up to criticise the Welsh Government’s plans to 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 Natural Resources Wales.

The Farmers’ Union of Wales says Welsh Government water quality legislation fails to address Welsh concerns and needs. The NVZ rules are EU regulations currently in place only in intensively farmed areas.

FUW president Glyn Roberts 

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.”

The FUW added that Natural Resources Wales 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.

Tractor and slurry tanker (Image: Geograph / Valtra Oy Ab)

The Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Environment and Rural Affairs – Janet Finch-Saunders MS – blasted Cardiff Bay’s recent NVZ regulation announcement as being “… like a criminal electronic tag for farmers.”

According to the record of the Welsh Parliament, the Labour administration had promised seven times to refrain from implementing such a change during the present pandemic. The most recent commitment came from Lesley Griffiths on October 14, 2020.

Janet Finch-Saunders MS

Mrs Finch-Saunders said: “The betrayal felt by our rural communities at this regulatory push, despite seven recorded promises to abstain from its implementation during the present pandemic, cannot be quantified. These new NVZ regulations are like a criminal electronic tag for farmers.

“These regulations are an unnecessary diversion at a time when public services are strained and the scrutiny abilities of the Senedd capped. It is important for us all to remember that, whilst the Welsh Government laid this new layer of bureaucratic red tape, 680 Coronavirus cases were being reported in Wales.

“It is also misguided, as surveys – including those conducted by AHDB – continue to show that farmers are commanding the deepest trust and viewed as environmentally beneficial. The severe lack of trust that these proposals place in our farming community is remarkable.

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“In looking over the document in more detail, Regulation 15 shows that the Welsh Government does not believe farmers capable of using appropriate spreading equipment. Meanwhile, Regulations 34, 35, 36, 37, 40, 41, 42, and 43 show a desire to see farmers bogged down in paperwork.

“In spite of the Welsh Government publicly claiming that their new proposals are proportionate to the risks, NRW’s own Executive Director for Evidence, Policy and Permitting has spoken of a steady decline in pollution incidents in the last two years. Their approach to this issue is in disarray.

“NRW has published a map showing that huge swathes of Wales have had zero agricultural incidents to water since 2010. Pollution incidents are declining, so why have the Welsh Government decided to curtail farmers’ freedom to farm?

“Sadly, the £13 million being made available this year to assist with water quality and farm nutrient management infrastructure is merely a drop of slurry in a very large pit. This is why I asked the Minister to explain what assessment she has made of the number of farm businesses that will be forced to close as result of these regulations.”

(Lead image: Geograph / James T M Towill)

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Environment

Cadle Heath is alive with the sound of critters

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From endangered bats to moths, beetles and unusual critters, a Swansea suburb is giving locals an opportunity to discover exactly what’s living on their doorstep.

The Cadle Heath BioBlitz event funded by the Swansea Nature Partnership on Saturday, May 14, is a day packed with scavenger hunts, guided walks, opportunities to learn about the wildflowers, bugs birds, reptiles and mammals and help to gather important nature data by recording the unusual species living in this urban heath.

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This nature reserve is one of Swansea’s best kept secrets and stretches from behind Swansea Community Farm on Carmarthen Road, to popular shopping-destination, Pontarddulais Road Retail Park.

The event, which is organised by Swansea Community Farm, South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre and Penderi Green Regeneration project, will take place between 10am and 3pm at the farm. Followed by a bat walk at 8.30pm, giving people the chance to listen for the elusive, red-listed, Lesser Horseshoe Bat in its natural habitat.

Kate McCabe from Pobl, leading on the Penderi Green Regeneration Project, said: “This is an exciting event for us. Cadle Heath is one of the best examples of urban heathland in the country and we are proud to have such a rich, exciting space for nature in the heart of Swansea’s Penderi region. The fact that the heath is home to a red-listed bat species is something we should be really proud of and something we should protect and celebrate.”

“Cadle is in such a highly populated part of Swansea that it is often overlooked, and people don’t often realise the hidden haven that exists for local wildlife. This family-friendly event will really bring the area to life, giving people a unique opportunity to really explore the area with the guidance of passionate scientists and nature experts.”

Katharine Aylett, from Swansea Community Farm, said: “We are proud to be hosting such an important and exciting event for the area, and to be partners of Pobl’s Penderi Green Regeneration Project. At Swansea Community Farm, we know the positive effect activities like this have on the community and local wildlife; it’s about raising awareness of the natural world and bringing people together, outdoors. 

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“The Penderi Green Regeneration Project itself, is vital to the area and is already having a clear impact on this part of Swansea. We’re looking forward to working with them on future events and initiatives.”

The Penderi Green Regeneration Project is an initiative to support local people in their desire to improve green spaces in their area which will help boost health and wellbeing. Through a series of physical and educational opportunities, the initiative will bring the wider neighbourhood together to regenerate green spaces in the Penderi area of Swansea.

Funded by UK Government, under the Community Renewal Fund (CRF), Pobl Group is able to deliver the Project with the help of key partners, Swansea Environment Centre, Room To Grow and the Conservation Team at Swansea Council.

For more information on the free event, visit: www.swanseacommunityfarm.org.uk

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Environment

First Minister celebrates 10 years of the Wales Coast Path

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The First Minister will celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Wales Coast Path with a visit to meet volunteers and walkers.

A year long programme of events and activities celebrating the Wales Coast Path will take place throughout 2022, including walking festivals, virtual challenges and art installations.

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Since its opening in 2012, the Wales Coast Path has established itself as a beacon of our nation’s natural beauty.

The 870 mile path guides walkers along Wales’ picturesque coastline, weaving its way past a hundred beaches and sixteen castles.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The coastal path is one of the crowning glories of Wales and one of the proudest achievements of devolution.

“I would like to thank all those involved in the management of the path. Particularly the staff and volunteers, who are out in all weathers, working hard to maintain the path to such high standards.

“If I had to choose my favourite stretch of the path, the portion between Pendine and Amroth would be a candidate: starting in my own home county of Carmarthenshire, and ending in Pembrokeshire. It may not be the most well-known part of the path, but it offers huge variety: some challenging climbs, outstanding variety of flowers, secret coves and plenty of historical interest”.

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The Welsh Government will build on the successes of the first ten years so that more people are able to enjoy the path, from more backgrounds, more easily, and with more benefits for local communities, businesses and the environment.

The Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters MS, asked Huw Irranca-Davies, MS for Ogmore to undertake a review of the Wales Coast Path.

A small group, drawn from academia and the public, private and voluntary sectors was established to undertake the review.

The Group reflected on the key achievements over the last decade and identified how to maximise opportunities for the future.

Their report has been published on the Welsh Government website today (11 May).

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The review recognises the potential value and challenges of the Wales Coast Path. It contains 19 recommendations for the Welsh Government to consider when developing its future strategic approach to the path.

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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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