We have welcomed the new environmental body, Natural Resources Wales (NRW), which comes into existence today (1 April) and we have set it a number of challenges.
The common land of Wales is immensely important for its natural beauty, wildlife habitats, archaeology, culture and opportunities for informal recreation. Eight per cent of Wales is common land. So we want the new body to give full attention to the protection and good management of commons, for their public and environmental benefits.
We should like to see:
- NRW’s advocacy for the Commons Act 2006 to be implemented in full, throughout Wales, to provide for updating the registers and formation of commons councils, so that commons are properly mapped and managed;
- use of Glastir to secure better management of common land, including employment of shepherds to avoid fencing. Glastir is managed by the government but NRW has an important role in implementing it;
- NRW’s support for a change in the law so as to give local authorities a duty to take action against unlawful works on common land and for a 20-mph speed limit on all unfenced roads across commons, to safeguard stock, the landscape and public access;
- NRW’s resistance to the siting of wind turbines on common land and other open country.
We should also like to see improvements to the wonderful Wales Coastal Path so that it is truly coastal right round Wales, and with access land adjoining it so that people can wander freely away from the path.
We want to work with NRW to secure the resources to sustain common land, town and village greens, open spaces and public paths all of which are so important for walking, horse-riding and cycling—and we’d like to see greater access for horse-riders on commons and access land.
We fervently hope that the excellent work undertaken by the Countryside Council for Wales over the last 23 years will not get lost in this big new body with its multitude of responsibilities. NRW must continue to focus on the Welsh landscape and the public’s enjoyment of it: these are vital to the health and economic sustainability of the country.