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Environment

Lost Peatlands project in Neath Port Talbot key in fight against climate and nature emergencies

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With the UN Climate Conference (COP26) nearing its end in Glasgow, Neath Port Talbot Council have said that there is no better time to take stock of what efforts are already underway in our local area.

The council says that the upland landscape between Neath Port Talbot and Rhondda Cynon Taf has a wealth of natural assets, which if managed correctly, can have a big impact on our contributions to the climate and nature emergencies declared by nations around the world – including the Welsh Government. 

Within this vast area of wilderness lies the most southerly interconnected upland deep peat resource of any significant size in Wales – one of the largest areas of its type in the UK. 

Peatland management is crucial in the world’s approach to achieving its carbon goals – and for good reason. They are amongst the most carbon-rich ecosystems on Earth, storing around 25% of total soil carbon while only occupying 3% of the global land area. 

In the UK, approximately 10% of the land area (2.6m hectares) is covered in peat. Around 20% of these peatbogs are in a near-natural state, with the remaining 80% being modified or damaged. 

Peatlands in good condition act as a carbon sink – locking in vast amounts of carbon formed over millennia – and they can also reduce flood risk, improve water quality, support biodiversity and have a net cooling effect on climate. 

However, when peatlands are damaged, they actually become a significant carbon emitter. It is therefore vital to assess the peatlands we have and determine how best to restore them. This is typically done by focusing on the hydrology of an area, and through restoration works the ‘re-wetting’ of peatlands will allow them to return to their natural state.

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Renewable energy is also a key theme for COP26. Vattenfall’s Pen y Cymoedd Wind Farm is the largest onshore wind farm in England and Wales. Its 76 turbines have a total installed capacity of 228MW which produce enough fossil free power for 188,000 homes annually, around 15% of Welsh homes. 

Alongside extensive forestry and vast areas of habitat that support some of our most threatened and endangered wildlife, the area can truly be classed as a major hub for carbon sequestration, renewable energy production and wildlife conservation.

The Lost Peatlands of South Wales Project is funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund and is currently being delivered by a partnership between Neath Port Talbot Council, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, Natural Resources Wales, Swansea University and Coed Lleol (Small Woods). 

The project – with Vattenfall and its Pen y Cymoedd Wind Farm as a key stakeholder and contributor – will be restoring up to 250 hectares of peatlands in the landscape above the upper Afan Valley and upper Rhondda Fawr while also actively managing 491 hectares of natural habitat for biodiversity in its project area. 

Peatland restoration works are underway within the wind farm habitat management area, with more scheduled at other sites over the coming winters through to 2024. 

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Cllr Annette Wingrave, Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Streetscene and Engineering said: “As well as supporting local habitats, the Lost Peatlands project will encourage local residents and visitors to enjoy, appreciate and engage with this important landscape and see afresh why this area was once known as the ‘Alps of Glamorgan’”. 

Frank Elsworth, Vattenfall’s Head of Market Development UK for Onshore Wind said: “The transition to net zero has so many benefits, including wind farms enabling improvements to the natural environment through their habitat management plans.

“The Lost Peatlands Project and the Habitat Management Plan at Pen y Cymoedd Wind Farm will restore this beautiful landscape and important wildlife habitat, benefitting both the climate and local communities.”

(Lead image: Neath Port Talbot Council)

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Hunting

National Trust joins Natural Resources Wales in banning trail hunting on its land

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The National Trust’s board of trustees has announced the charity will no longer issue licences for trail hunting on Trust land.

This activity has been suspended on Trust land since November 2020 following a police investigation into webinars involving huntspeople discussing the practice. 

In October, the then director of the Masters of the Fox Hounds Association (MFHA) was found guilty of encouraging the use of legal trail hunting as a screen to carry out the unlawful chasing and killing of animals. 

At the charity’s Annual General Meeting in October 2021, members voted by 76,816 to 38,184 in favour of banning trail hunting on National Trust land.  

Harry Bowell, Director of Land and Nature said: “The board of trustees has carefully considered this issue. Its decision to issue no further licences for trail hunting is based on a wide range of considerations. These include – but are not limited to – a loss of trust and confidence in the MFHA, which governs trail hunting, the vote by National Trust members at our recent AGM, the considerable resources needed to facilitate trail hunting and the reputational risk of this activity continuing on our land.”   

Hunting wild mammals with dogs was banned in England and Wales by the Hunting Act of 2004. Following the National Trust’s 2017 AGM, the conservation charity introduced a dedicated Trail Hunting Management Team, which oversaw the licensing process and monitored trail hunting activity against the terms of the new licences.  

Since then, the Trust has seen both compliant and legitimate activity, but also multiple reported breaches.  

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The move by National Trust follows that of Welsh environment body Natural Resources Wales who also banned the practice earlier this month.

Dominic Driver, Head of Land Stewardship for NRW, said: “We have carefully considered the court ruling and our role before coming to a decision at the Board meeting, which we held in public session. The Board has decided not to renew our agreement with the Master Fox Hounds Association.

“The outcome of the court case against a senior leader of the MFHA has resulted in a loss of confidence in the organisation’s ability to ensure its activities are carried out within the law and terms of its agreement.

“In order to assure ourselves properly that trail hunting on our estate wasn’t being used as a cover for illegal activity, we would have to invest in skills and resources that we currently don’t have, to police it properly. Given what has historically been a minor use of the land we manage, this does not represent good use of our limited resources.

“As all trail hunting was managed under the same agreement, all trail hunting activity on the NRW-managed estate will end with immediate effect.”

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The move by Natural Resources Wales was welcomed by the RSPCA.

RSPCA head of public affairs David Bowles said: “This is a very welcome move from Natural Resources Wales, and marks a major step towards curtailing illegal hunting.

“The use of the scent of dead animals such as foxes as used by trail hunts is totally unnecessary as it can result in the hounds chasing live foxes rather than following the scent trail. There are other alternatives, such as drag hunting, in which hounds follow an artificially laid scent which is not derived from animals, so does not pose a threat to wildlife.

“We are concerned that legal trail hunting is being used to create a smoke screen to allow illegal hunting with dogs to continue, as a recent successful prosecution showed where hunters were encouraged to use trail hunting as a cover for illegal fox hunting – so this move to ban is wholly welcome, and we urge other landowners to follow suit in the interests of animal welfare.”

(Lead image: National Trust)

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Business

Swansea-based recycling business scoops national award

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Family-run business, Gavin Griffiths Recycling came out top at the Growing Business Awards 2021

This is the second award for the Swansea-based business this year, after the firm found success at the Swansea Bay Business Awards, picking up the Business of the Year 2021 award

The business describes itself as one of the region’s leading recycling, waste management, haulage and aggregate suppliers.

In a very competitive category at an awards ceremony to honour and reward the UK’s most entrepreneurial and high growth business, up against 1,400 other businesses in the category, Gavin Griffiths Recycling came out on top at the Growing Business Awards 2021.  

The firm said they were delighted to be announced B2B Business of the Year 2021 at the ceremony held at the Grosvenor Hotel in London. They described this latest award as further testimony to the hard work and determination that has seen the business accelerate its growth plans since its birth in 2005.

During the last 18 months, the group has opened its second site, a 40-acre inert recycling facility in Carmarthenshire, complimenting its existing mixed recycling facility in Swansea whilst delivering one of its largest and most prestigious contracts working on the Llangennech railway crash land remediation.  

The arrival of new staff, additional machinery, plant and 10 new trucks to support the expansion plans have also seen the continued investment into the business.

The company said that whilst keeping its values as a family business, they have continued their community and social values programme, supporting grassroots sports, individuals, schools, and charities across South and West Wales.

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Gavin Griffiths, Group Managing Director commented: “I was very honoured to see us make the final of such a prestigious national award, but when our name was read out as the winner, I was extremely proud of what we have achieved as a team. I would like thank the whole team, as well as every one of our customers, suppliers and stakeholders for supporting us on our journey so far. 

“This recognition is phenomenal, we are so grateful and humbled to have been chosen from so many other amazing throughout the UK. We have some exciting developments on the horizon that will see us pioneer and lead the way in the recycling market. To win two awards in one year, really shows how we have kept our family ethos and worked hard to serve our customers across the whole business.”

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Business

Swansea named the best city in Wales to buy pre-loved presents

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close up shot of a person wrapping a gift box

Sustainable e-tailer Bower Collective’s latest study finds the UK’s top places to buy second-hand gifts this Christmas

As much as £42m worth of Christmas gifts are unwanted (and sent to landfill) each year. To break the taboo around second-hand gifting this festive season, Bower Collective have released a study looking at the number of vintage stores, second-hand shops and vintage and second-hand events per capita across UK towns and cities to find the top places to find pre-loved presents.

Considering all factors, the study found Swansea is the “thrifty-gifting” capital of Wales. Elsewhere in Wales, Wrexham has the most second-hand shops per capita. The Welsh town has 34 second-hand shops per 10,000 people, the most per capita in the UK. Newport has the 4th most second-hand shops per capita, with 38 to offer.

The data for the four major cities can be found below:

LocationOverall rank in WalesNo. of vintage stores (rank per capita)No. of second-hand shops (rank per capita)No. of recent second-hand events (rank per capita)
Swansea1st16th18th47th
Newport2nd30th4th51st
Wrexham3rd49th1st41st
Cardiff4th17th41st44th

The study also researched the search volume of each city for sustainable and second-hand shopping terms like ‘sustainable gifts’, ‘charity shops’ and ‘vintage kilo sale’. Per capita, Cardiff searches the most for relevant terms in Wales. However they also found that searches in Swansea increased by 528% in the past year alone, the biggest one year growth in Wales and the UK overall.

Overall across the UK, Norwich, Worthing, Newcastle and Worcester are the best places to buy a pre-loved present. From looking at Google search trends, the study also found that Brits are searching for ‘sustainable gifts’ 988% more than they were three years ago. Searches for ‘Vintage Kilo Sale’ also rose by 167% and ‘charity shops’ searches went up by 95%.

Norwich, Norfolk featured in the top 10 for all factors, and also ranked top for the most vintage shops per capita, with 28 to choose between. The next best cities to go vintage shopping are Carlisle and Brighton.

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The city with the most second-hand events (like vintage kilo sales and table-top sales) is Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. For this festive season, residents of the city have over 30 events to get stuck into. The next places hosting the most second-hand events were Lincoln and Worcester.

The study can also reveal the most ‘thrifty gift’ winners of each UK Nation. Derry in Northern Ireland is the best place to buy pre-loved presents on the Emerald Isle, and considering its smaller size, Derry ranked 4th in the study for the number of vintage shops per capita – with 8 to purchase from. Glasgow is the ‘thrifty gifting’ capital of Scotland, and ranks 5th in the study overall. Glasgow also has the 6th most vintage shops per. capita in the UK – with 44 to explore.

The study was also supplemented with research into the UK’s changing search trends for sustainable and second-hand gift giving. The data found that those in Bath, Edinburgh and Oxford are searching the most for second-hand and sustainable gift giving search terms per capita.

However, since 2020 Swansea has seen the biggest one-year increase in relevant search terms (up by 528%). Milton Keynes (with an increase of 146%) and Woking (with an increase of 134%) were the next cities with the biggest growth of interest in shopping more climate-conciously.

(Lead image: EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA / Pexels.com)

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