The society is concerned that the Welsh Government’s Green Paper, Sustaining a Living Wales, pays insufficient regard to the nation’s superb common land and landscape, and people’s ability to enjoy it. The society has submitted a robust response to the consultation paper, calling for greater recognition of these important features.
Says David Bateman, our spokesman in Wales: ‘Eight per cent of Wales is common land, and commons are immensely important for their natural beauty, wildlife habitats, archaeology and opportunities for informal recreation. No other type of land offers such a range of public benefits. They are also crucial to the Welsh economy and sustainability because they provide grazing land (especially for hill farmers), and are significant tourist attractions.
‘We are pleased that the Welsh Government is in process of implementing the 2006 Commons Act, but would like to see the importance of commons recognised in its new approach. We believe there should be a requirement for common land and town and village greens within or adjacent to any proposed development to be a material planning consideration.
‘Access is a vital feature of people’s ability to use and enjoy the ecosystems of Wales, but it receives only cursory mention in the Green Paper. There is no reference at all to the fact that all common land is open-access land under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, nor of the benefits to the public of open access on other land designated under the Act. There is no mention of the poor state of rights of way in Wales which inhibits the public from making use of the countryside in some areas.
‘As we stated in our 12-point Action Plan for Wales which we sent to all candidates in the last Welsh Government election, we should like to see the provision of resources to sustain common land, town and village greens, open spaces and public paths, walking, horse-riding and cycling, as vital to Wales’s economic diversification.
‘And we are concerned at the lack of attention to landscape in the document. We see it as one of the outstanding qualities of the environment of Wales.
‘So we feel the Welsh Government is missing a number of opportunities to celebrate and capitalise on the special qualities of the Welsh environment, and we trust that it will put things right when acting upon the Green Paper,’ David concludes.