Neath Port Talbot Council have confirmed that they will sign up to the Edinburgh Declaration – a commitment to tackling the twin challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss by integrating nature-based solutions into the way it works.
The Environment (Wales) Act 2016 already places a duty on public authorities to maintain and enhance biodiversity by promoting the resilience of ecosystems in its functions, meaning Welsh councils and other bodies had to prepare and publish a plan setting out how they intended to comply.
The council published its first Biodiversity Duty Plan (BDP) in 2017 outlining the natural resources in Neath Port Talbot, why they are so important and what activities were already underway to protect them.
This was followed by an implementation report in 2020 setting out what had been achieved and what needed to be improved, with the second BDP (2020-23), approved by the Cabinet on November 17th, outlining action already being undertaken by the council and further action needed to comply with the Environment (Wales) Act.
Neath Port Talbot has traditionally been associated with heavy industry and mining but the council says the county also has a spectacular variety and quality of biodiversity with these varied habitats making Neath Port Talbot well known for its waterfalls, country parks and seafront. Recreational activities here include glamping, walking and mountain biking. Easy access to these improves health and well-being while boosting the economy.
And despite being known for its industry, Neath Port Talbot has been identified as the local authority area with the greatest percentage of woodland cover in Britain, according to recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The accolade follows research last year by aerial survey experts Bluesky International which showed Neath Port Talbot had by far the highest percentage of tree cover in Wales and was among the top ten in the UK for tree cover – even beating the New Forest.
Cllr Annette Wingrave, Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Sustainable Development, said in an introduction to the new BDP (Drawn up by the council’s Countryside and Wildlife Team): ”Neath Port Talbot has a diversity of habitats, from the coast, through river valley floors, woodland covered valley sides and onto hilltop moorland.
“This allows the county to be home to many varieties of species. It is a special place for biodiversity and I feel privileged to work and live in such an incredible area. This plan demonstrates how we fulfil that duty. It will act as a driver for conservation activities throughout Neath Port Talbot.”
Habitats in Neath Port Talbot include:
- Peatland and bogs – peat soils capture and store atmospheric carbon dioxide. This can be held in the soil permanently when the soil is in good condition.
- Saltmarsh on the coast – helps dissipate wave action and high tides to prevent flooding and erosion.
- Species rich grasslands – provide essential habitat and connectivity for pollinators and food for livestock.
- Woodlands – help clean the air of pollutants, provide flood alleviation, reduce the heat island effect in urban environments, provide oxygen and timber products.
Many sites in Neath Port Talbot are designated for nature conservation. These include local, national and international designations. Our marshy grasslands in the valleys support Marsh Fritillary butterflies. Their populations fluctuate, so having connected, good quality habitat is key to retaining the species in the area. The habitat is also important for Harvest Mice and Barn Owls.
Woodlands provide a home to the rare Honey Buzzard. This bird of prey specialises in eating wasp grubs. It is a very scarce breeder in the UK. Recently a population of Blue Ground Beetles was discovered in ancient woodland in Skewen, the only site where they have been found in Wales.
Fens and canals at Pant y Sais house the only Welsh population of one of Europe’s largest spiders – the Fen Raft Spider. Also found here is Royal Fern, one of the largest in Europe. This species has stayed mostly unchanged for 180 million years. Otters are also found on our waterways.
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