Natural Resources Wales accused of ‘avoiding scrutiny’ after ending meetings with councils
Saul Cooke-Black, local democracy reporter
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has been accused of “avoiding scrutiny” after it stopped holding meetings with councils.
Meetings between representatives from councils previously took place quarterly but NRW has not held meetings with council representatives since before the Covid-19 pandemic.
At a full meeting of Monmouthshire County Council last week, Cllr Tony Easson urged local authority chiefs to contact NRW to get meetings “back up and running”.
“I think they are avoiding scrutiny for some reason or another,” he said.
“Scrutiny gives us the opportunity to oversee the areas in question, and also for the penny-rate payers and the other landowners who actually live and work in the moors in the south.”
Cllr Easson said that recently the body of a man – a nephew of one of his constituents – had been found near a sluice gate in the south of the county.
Natural Resources Wales has responsibility to carry out investigations on sluice gates, and Cllr Easson said if there had been meetings with the environment agency, councillors could have been better informed about the situation.
“I believe that that body would have been found instead of lying there for about four or five months,” he said.
Independent councillor Frances Taylor, who represents Magor West, supported Cllr Easson’s comments, and said that resolving issues on the Gwent Levels with NRW had also been “very challenging”.
Paul Matthews, chief executive of Monmouthshire council, said he is meeting with the chief executive of NRW, Clare Pillman, and her leadership team at the end of this month, and that he will raise the issue with them directly.
Steve Morgan, head of South East Wales Operations for Natural Resources Wales said: “Our teams meet regularly with the local authorities in Gwent, and we have a quarterly meeting with representatives from Monmouthshire council, covering issues such as development planning, water quality, flood risk, waste and fly-tipping.
“We are also an active member of the Living Levels Partnership, Wentlooge Levels Stakeholder group, Gwent Public Service Board (PSB) and Monmouthshire Local Delivery Group (formerly Monmouthshire PSB)
“The impact of the pandemic has meant that we needed to change the way that we work, and we accept that the Internal Drainage District advisory group hasn’t met for some time. We are currently working on re-establishing an advisory group as soon as possible.
“We are more than happy to review our level of engagement with Monmouthshire council officers and elected members to ensure the focus, frequency and number of meetings is fit for purpose.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.