Applications are now open for two new Welsh Government funds – the National Forest Community Woodland Grant Fund, and the Local Places for Nature Capital Fund – to help communities and organisations fulfil their role in responding to the climate emergency. The funds will be delivered in a collaboration between the Welsh Government and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with applications handled by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The National Forest Community Woodland Grant Fund will allow not-for-profit organisations to apply for funds for woodland projects, which help meet the needs of local communities and help boost ecosystems. This could include the creation of new woodland on derelict sites; the planting of trees on streets in urban neighbourhoods, or creating new corridors of trees to link existing woodlands. The fund may also be used for improvements to existing woodland areas, through the installation of footpaths or improving access.
The Local Places for Nature Capital Fund will give people the chance to create nature on their doorsteps. The scheme is aimed at community organisations to restore and enhance nature in their local areas, particularly in Wales’ most disadvantaged communities, and those with little access to nature. The fund aims to create places for nature across Wales, where people live, work and access public services. Projects may include creating urban green spaces, pollinator-friendly wildflower meadows and verges, and helping to remove threats to nature such as pollution, invasive and non-native species.
The Welsh Government is understood to be preparing to consult on proposals to require every new house with a parking space to have an EV charging point. Concerns may centre on the added cost to builders and purchasers and the capacity of the power grid, but many may feel that the measure is overdue.
Monmouthshire is to receive £290,000 from the Welsh Government this year for ‘bus stop infrastructure’ – but we do not know yet what this might be.
Pontypool and New Inn Rail Station improvements have been recommended for approval by Torfaen planners. The project will provide 133 park and ride spaces accessed from A4042 and a new footbridge and lift. Ironically this public transport improvement is expected to increase traffic on the over-capacity A4042, likely to be aggravated by developments at Mamhilad.
Abergavenny has long been waiting for similar improvements,
Lee Waters, the Welsh Government’s Deputy Transport Minister, has written to all local authorities inviting them to submit proposals for temporary measures that would improve the conditions for sustainable and active travel. The Welsh Government’s call to action is driven by the expectation that social distancing will need to be observed for months to come, as well as uncertainty around future transport patterns. The lockdown has also seen a huge uptake in digital remote working, bringing the need to travel long distances for work into question.
The type of ‘pop-up measures’ that are being encouraged include road closures or lane closures, with filters for cyclists; 20mph limits, bringing forward trials for the introduction of default 20mph limits; footway widening and decluttering; temporary crossing facilities; bus lanes, bus only roads, and park and ride facilities; and enhanced waiting facilities to encourage social distancing
Initial expressions of interest are asked for by 21 May and measures are envisaged to be introduced from early summer.
The Welsh Government has set Natural Resources Wales (NRW) a number of new and repurposed priorities to target renewable energy, flood alleviation, tree planting and biodiversity. Environment and energy minister Lesley Griffiths stresses its pivotal role in supporting the transition to renewable energy. She also urges NRW to “maximise the delivery of its new flood programme in the coming year, including more emphasis on natural alleviation measures in collaboration with local authorities and the public”.
In terms of tree planting NRW is now expected to “adopt a proportionate, evidence-based approach to verifying proposals for planting and for processes to be tailored towards accelerating progress in delivering new woodland in a way that meets or exceeds government targets”. Woodland cover is set to increase by 4,000 hectares annually soon and NRW is also expected to work closely with ministers on the creation of a National Forest, involving improving access to and restoring some of the country’s ancient woodland, as well as identifying “exemplar sites” to form part of the initiative.
She stresses that the green regulator has a key role in halting and reversing the decline in nature, and would like to see NRW make strides to restore its own Natura 2000 sites and to take forward the planned programme for restoration of degraded peatlands to create healthy functioning wet bogs.
This link – https://gov.wales/written-statement-waless-first-future-generations-report-future-generations-commissioner-wales – will take you to Jane Hutt’s initial response to Wales’s first “Future Generations Report” by the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales. There is a link to Sophie Howe’s report at the bottom of the page – over 800 pages for you to study while there is lockdown. There is also a link to the Auditor General’s much shorter report on the sustainable development principle.
Environment minister Lesley Griffiths has revealed that the government is considering ramping up its response to the climate emergency. Details are currently scheduled to be outlined in June, when Griffiths intends to make a statement in the Welsh Assembly Senedd, followed by publication of the government’s first supplementary budget. This would outline how the administration’s plan for recovery after the Covid-19 outbreak “aligns with our net-zero ambitions and how we might go further and faster in realising them,” according to the minister.
She added: “In repairing the damage to our society and our economy caused by the pandemic, we must ensure we consolidate the progress we have made in answering the climate emergency and take every opportunity to make sure a healthier and prosperous Wales is also a greener and more sustainable one. We are determined the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic will accelerate, and not deter us from, the transition to a low-carbon economy and a healthier, more equal Wales.”
Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has published a series of innovative area statements this week covering seven separate but hugely diverse parts of the country. That for SE Wales is at https://naturalresources.wales/about-us/area-statements/south-east-wales-area-statement/introduction-to-south-east-area-statement/?lang=en .
NRW has explained: “Each area statement outlines the key challenges facing that particular locality, what we can all do to meet those challenges, and how we can better manage our natural resources for the benefit of future generations. They will be updated regularly and improved year on year as we engage with more people, gather new evidence, put forward ideas and work across boundaries to create opportunities.”
The Welsh Government has stressed these are “a key piece of evidence which must be considered in development plan preparation”.
Following a period of consultation, the Welsh Government has confirmed that it will revise Planning Policy Wales (PPW) by implementing the replacement of the five-year housing land supply policy by the monitoring of housing delivery against local development plan housing trajectories. This will involve the revocation of TAN 1 (Joint Housing Land Availability Studies) and the publication of Edition 3 of the Development Plans Manual. These changes will be incorporated in a new edition of PPW in the autumn of 2020.
Message from MCC:
In light of the changing circumstances surrounding COVID-19 and following yesterday’s announcement by the Government, the decision has been made to postpone the RLDP engagement events detailed below until further notice. The consultation period and opportunity to submit candidate sites remain open, but the deadline for both will be extended accordingly. We will reschedule the events that have not yet taken place (drop in events at Abergavenny, Chepstow, Magor, Caldicot and Usk), as well as attendance at Community Council Clusters and Area Committees, but unfortunately cannot confirm a timescale for that yet. We will publicise the new consultation deadline in due course.