LlyG update – government policy important to community woodlands, June 2015

Posted on July 3, 2015 by

Llais y Goedwig Director David Williams gives his bi monthly round up of key developments important to community woodlands in one easy read update.

This update draws on Llais y Goedwig’s ongoing work with organisations including Natural Resources Wales, Wales Environment link (WEL),  Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA), and the National Forestry Policy Group within Welsh Government.

You can read all the woodland policy updates posted by LlyG by visiting here.

All members are welcome to take part in attending meetings and inputting on consultations. For more information contact the network here.

Environment Bill update

As I have noted before, the Welsh Government have not been slow to use their new powers to create legislation for Wales – although to be fair, they have signalled their intent to do this and do engage in a good consultation process.

So, hot on the heels of the passing of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act in March, we now have the Environment Bill going through an extensive engagement process with the aim for this to be laid before the National Assembly in spring of 2016.

(A quick digression – ‘Welsh Government’ is the ruling party, who, with their civil servants, create legislation or a ‘programme of government’. The ‘National Assembly for Wales’ is the equivalent of the UK Parliament, made up of all Assembly Members in Wales, who vote on the legislation presented by Welsh Government, and who can table amendments to that legislation. Obviously if one party has a sizeable majority, then it might expect legislation to go through with no amendment, but they do have to win over the hearts and minds of their backbenchers – who in turn can be influenced by what we, as their constituents, write in to tell them what we care about)

The Environment Bill was formally launched by the Minister, Carl Sergeant, who has the portfolio for Natural Resources, at Greenmeadow Community Farm in Cwmbran on 10th May – so as I had an invitation to this from being on the Natural Resources Reference Group, and it is in the town where I live, then I went along.

There was the opportunity to examples of Nature Fund projects from South East Wales, a cross authority pollinators project so that roadside verges are seeded with wild flowers and cutting is done with due regard to flowering seasons. A short summary and links were posted by Llais y Goedwig shortly afterwards, so we were ‘hot off the press’!.

So what are the key elements of the Bill?

  • A new ‘planning and management’ approach, through a State of Natural Resources Report (to be produced by NRW); a National Natural Resources Policy (priorities and opportunities for managing our resources sustainably) and Area Statements (areas are not defined by the Bill, but will be determined by NRW – who are looking at river catchments to define areas)
  • Giving NRW a ‘general purpose’ to deliver sustainable management of natural resources
  • Providing NRW with powers to undertake land management agreements (detail yet to be set out) and trial new ways of working through experimental schemes (also yet to have detail)
  • Providing public authorities with a reshaped requirement to seek to maintain and   enhance biodiversity (likely to be a statutory duty on local authorities)
  • Setting out targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions
  • Improving the existing scheme for single use carrier bags(possible extension to other types of bags and suggested broadening of how proceeds can be used – so not just    environmental ‘good causes’ but any ‘good cause – quite contentious with Wales Environment Link (WEL) colleagues who have prepared a briefing on this)
  • Giving Ministers powers to take action for better levels of waste recycling
  • New powers on marine licensing and shellfisheries management
  • More on the Bill can be found at: http://gov.wales/environmentbill

So what does this mean for woodlands in Wales?

  • Woodlands are going to be an important part of the Area based approach – having a role in flood management for example, and this connection may be strengthened if a river basin approach is taken
  • Woodlands – and woodland planting – could have an important role in ‘carbon budgeting’ as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Managed woodlands will also help public authorities maintain and improve local biodiversity
  • We can fully expect that any new grant funding regimes will want to see an alignment to these Environment Bill elements, and ‘knowing the language’ will doubtless be a key part of successful forward applications!

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