Natural Resources Wales to review controversial afforestation project
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
Wales’ environment watchdog is reviewing a decision it made about a controversial forestry planting scheme in Carmarthenshire after being challenged by conservationists.
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) said it was aware of the concerns raised by the group, called Initiative for Nature Conservation Cymru (INCC), regarding a 73-hectare tree-planting scheme at Frongoch, in the Cothi Valley.
The group said it had serious concerns that NRW decided the private afforestation project did not require environmental impact assessment approval or a habitats assessment, which the group claimed effectively meant that no further consent was necessary.
The INCC queried this because of the scale of the proposed scheme and its proximity to a designated special area of conservation, site of special scientific interest, and special protection area.
It said it was worried that a number of potential impacts on these protected sites were not properly considered or assessed by the regulator, and also that the ecological value of the planned fir and spruce plantation may have been over-estimated.
INCC chief executive Rob Parry, said: “The issue in this case was that despite the scale and sensitive location of this proposal, many of the potential impacts of the scheme were not considered by NRW at all.”
After seeking legal advice the group wrote to NRW to say it was concerned that the decision-making process and consideration of the proposal may have been unlawful. It had the backing of naturalist and broadcaster Iolo Williams, who said safeguarding precious wildlife sites was “the very least” NRW should do.
The farm had been bought by an investment firm called Foresight Group and is one of several in Wales that have been snapped up by outside investors with the aim of planting tress to offset carbon emissions.
Although tree-planting offsets emissions – and is strongly supported by the Welsh Government – there is unease and anger among some that farmland in Wales will be lost.
The INCC said woodland cover could be an important contribution to addressing climate and nature depletion, but said poorly-designed planting schemes could negatively impact on wildlife and even, it claimed, lead to a net loss of carbon.
It said the time limit for bringing any legal challenge to the Frongoch farm scheme had passed but called on NRW to re-evaluate the way it considered environmental impact and habitats assessment questions.
Solicitor Carol Day, of Leigh Day, which acted for the INCC: “We hope the INCC’s letter will lead to a change in the way NRW assesses future schemes.”
In response to the letter, Martyn Evans, NRW’s head of South West Wales operations, said: “We take our role to protect and enhance Wales’ natural environment very seriously.
“Wales’ sites of special scientific interest and special areas of conservation are an important part of its natural heritage, hosting a diverse range of rare plants, wildlife and landscapes. Any application concerning changes to land within the proximity of such sites is subject to thorough processes and scrutiny.
“We are aware of the INCC’s concerns relating to this specific application and are reviewing our determination of the proposal.”
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“Although tree-planting offsets emissions”
No it doesn’t!
New trees will temporarily soak up some atmospheric CO2 and then release it again when they are cut down or die in 50-100 years. They are just kicking the can down the road. The only thing they offset is trees cut down now. You cannot offset fossil carbon by planting trees, and that’s what the problem is. Fossil carbon can only be removed by burying it back underground for another few million years.
The whole idea of carbon-offsetting is pure green-washing by people with vested interests in oil and gas.
It’s refreshing to find someone else who understands the temporary nature of timber growth and carbon sequestration maths. Even if a woodland is not cut down, once it has matured and attained a stable biomass, it does not remove more than minimal carbon from circulation, and then only if the soil depth increases. Carbon credits are just a scam. If we want to stop soiling the planet, we have to stop burning fossil fuels. Still, if woodland is planted sensitively*, with ecology and amenity in mind, or on land that otherwise is going to waste, then I’m all for it.… Read more »
…”Carbon credits are just a scam..” You need not have said any more. The headlong rush to waste money subsidising corporates who are churning their muck out somewhere else is a disgrace. The economics and science of the madhouse and the disease is gathering yet more momentum.
Iolo Williams and INCC 1 – NRW and Cardiff Gov 0…they really need to up their game protecting Wales and need constant oversight…keep it up Iolo. There is a new species of parasite spreading over Wales and those in Cardiff cannot be trusted to do the right thing.
Any idea how many farms have been bought up like this, recently?
The NRA is a huge , expensive and barely accountable monster…that our MS’s need to take a greater interest in. It has a mix of contraditory aims and no strategic direction that anyone on Bus 55 to Betws y coed could tell you about. It effects counless lives across rural Walee with distance out of sight schemes from flooding defences, polution issues , through to land management, forrestry and laying out vast tracks of mostly tourist cycleways through cefn wlad cymru with little thought and even less maintenance. The three or four bodies which it consumed each had a clear… Read more »
You can help us prevent a “biodiversity desert” monoculture of non native conifers: Sitka Spruce and Douglas Fir from being planted at Frongoch by signing our petition here. https://protect-eu.mimecast.com/s/WZQACXQqfZlVQc6oSU2