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Comment

We call for new Wales body to focus on commons, spaces and paths

We have called for the new single environmental body in Wales to focus on common land, open spaces and public paths.

The society has responded to the Welsh Government’s consultation paper, Natural Resources Wales. This invites views on the arrangements for establishing and directing a new body for the management of Wales’s natural resources, by combining the Environment Agency, Forestry Commission and Countryside Council for Wales (CCW).

We are concerned that the important work currently undertaken by CCW could get swamped by all the other functions of a single body.

Says Kate Ashbrook, our general secretary: ‘We want to be sure that the new body will give priority to public access and recreation, and to the public path network and access land which enable people to enjoy Wales’s wonderful landscapes. We also want to be sure that the body will be standing up for the unique landscapes of Wales, its National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the splendid countryside between them.

‘We are concerned that there is no mention in the consultation paper of common land—yet this covers more than eight per cent of the land area of Wales, and commons provide immense public benefit for their natural beauty, wildlife habitats and archaeology, as well as being open-access land for the public to enjoy by right.

‘We are also concerned that there is no mention of the Wales Coast Path: this is a magnificent endeavour and it will be vital for this new body to oversee the work of the local authorities in bringing the path up to standard right round Wales, and keeping it that way.

‘There is much for the new body to do which is not mentioned in the consultation paper, and we want to impress on the Welsh Government the importance of public access to the health and happiness of the nation, as well as to its economy,’ Kate concludes.