Wildlife charity concerned that Natural Resources Wales may have acted unlawfully with regard to forestry planting proposal
The Welsh wildlife charity The Initiative for Nature Conservation Cymru (INCC) has written to Natural Resources Wales (NRW) this week, detailing their concerns on how the agency may have acted unlawfully when dealing with a private afforestation proposal in Carmarthenshire.
The proposal will see a large area (73 hectares) of farmland in the Cothi valley converted to non-native commercial forest plantation.
INCC’s concerns centre on how NRW reached its view that the proposal did not require NRW’s consent to proceed or meet the threshold for important environmental assessments to take place. This is despite the fact that the proposal lies immediately adjacent to several protected land designations, including a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
Chief Executive of INCC, 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 simply not considered by NRW at all. As such, we have written to NRW to inform them that we are concerned that their decision-making process and consideration of the proposal may have been unlawful.”
Legal advice sought by INCC from law firm Leigh Day suggests that key environmental issues were not given due consideration and that as the statutory environmental body for Wales, NRW should have undertaken a formal appropriate assessment before reaching their decision.
Naturalist and Broadcaster, Iolo Williams, added “At a time when wildlife in Wales is facing unprecedented pressures, the very least we should expect from NRW is that they safeguard our most precious sites for wildlife and follow basic environmental protections as the law intends”.
INCC recognises the important contribution that the expansion of woodland cover can make to addressing both the climate and nature crises, however, success is dependent on the right trees being in the right place. Poorly designed tree planting schemes can harm the wildlife interest of an area, and even cause a net loss of carbon.
Rob Parry, said, “There is a very real risk of an accelerated loss of wildlife habitat in Wales if NRW continues to adopt its current approach to commercial forestry applications. With hundreds of applications submitted to NRW in recent years and many more likely in future, it is clear that NRW needs to re-evaluate its position”.
Solicitor at Leigh Day, Carol Day, said, “We are pleased to have been asked to advise INCC in this important case. Our barrister was of the view there was an arguable legal flaw in NRW’s failure to consider whether an appropriate assessment was needed. We hope INCC’s letter will lead to a change in the way NRW assesses future schemes”.
INCC is currently awaiting a response from NRW.
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