Conservatives warn buying farms for tree planting could hit Welsh language communities
The Welsh Conservatives have warned that companies buying farms to plant trees in order to offset their carbon emissions could have a negative impact on Welsh language communities.
Aberconwy Senedd Member Janet Finch-Saunders MS has called on the Welsh Government to establish a commission to ensure that the “burden of decarbonisation” does not fall unequally on rural communities.
Her request comes after a farmers’ union has expressed alarm after receiving reports “almost on a weekly basis” of entire Welsh farms being snapped up for tree planting.
The Farmers’ Union of Wales said that the Welsh Government and Senedd needed to take “urgent accent” to control the market.
They said that rather than reducing their own carbon footprint, businesses were now finding it cheaper to buy up entire tracts of Welsh land instead.
Janet Finch-Saunders said that the Welsh Government had previously pledged that woodland creation targets, in an effort to combat Climate Change, should not affect communities.
“I am aware that the FUW receive almost weekly reports of whole farms or parcels of land being bought up by individuals and businesses from outside of Wales for the purpose of tree planting, including a recent report of a large farm which has been taken over by British Aerospace,” she said.
“This is why I wish to see the Welsh Government establish a Just Transition Commission to ensure the burden of decarbonisation does not fall unequally on our rural communities and have a negative impact on the historically thriving Welsh language in rural Wales.”
Speaking in the Senedd, she said: “For someone who believes in a free market, I believe it wrong to be seeing our farms and agricultural land in our strong Welsh-speaking communities simply being bought up in huge investments for companies and people from over the border.”
Jeremy Miles MS, the Minister for the Welsh Language, responded that he was already having discussions with the Minister and Deputy Minister for Climate Change in relation to this matter.
“It has been raised and discussed in this Chamber a number of times, including by Cefin Campbell earlier today,” he said. “I think I will echo the point that the Deputy Minister made in relation to the point raised by Cefin Campbell: we’ll be working very closely together in relation to that particular point.”
Glyn Roberts of FUW Cymru had said last month that the developments risked undermining the ability of farms, Welsh agriculture or Wales as a whole to become carbon neutral.
“If someone plants trees on Welsh land and sells the carbon outside Wales then this does nothing to help Wales reduce its carbon footprint,” FUW President Glyn Roberts said.
Glyn Roberts added: “Our longstanding concerns were confirmed in a recent Welsh Government response to a Senedd question by Plaid Cymru agriculture spokesperson Cefin Campbell, which revealed that between GWC application windows 8 (November 2019) and 10 (November 2020) the number of applicants with addresses outside Wales grew from 3% to 8%.”