The Welsh Government has outlined the measures it will take to improve the country’s air quality under its Clean Air Plan for Wales: Healthy Air, Healthy Wales, revised following consultation – https://gov.wales/clean-air-plan-wales-healthy-air-healthy-wales. The measures outlined in the Plan will work alongside existing schemes to reduce public exposure to air pollution, such as the Active Travel Act and the Welsh Government’s Transforming Towns Initiative. Some of the measures are:
- significant investment in active travel infrastructure, improving rail services and supporting decarbonisation through our aim for a zero tailpipe exhaust emission taxi and bus fleet by 2028.
- investigating measures to support a reduction in personal vehicle use such as road user charging, Clean Air Zones and/or Low Emission Zones.
- implementing our electric vehicle charging strategy and supporting an increase in the proportion of vehicles which are ultra-low emission (ULEV) and promoting a shift to ULEVs for waste collection.
- increasing air quality monitoring through the development of a new Air Pollution Monitoring Network.
- intelligent tree and hedge planting alongside expanding woodlands to support air quality improvements.
- strengthening the control of emissions in agriculture.
- new planning advice in the shape of an updated Technical Advice Note (TAN) 11: Noise, which will also incorporate guidance on air quality and soundscape.
- proposals for a new Clean Air Act for Wales to enhance existing legislation and introduce new powers to further tackle air pollution.
Local development plans have not previously addressed agricultural developments in any great detail. The administration has set up an intensive agriculture working group to consider how LPAs can better understand the impact on the environment during plan preparation and the consideration of planning applications.
Monmouthshire County Council is launching a three-month Active Travel consultation and is inviting residents to have their say. The consultation is a requirement by Welsh Government under the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013 and outlines draft proposals to encourage more cycling and walking. Draft Maps (called Integrated Network Maps) have been developed which show suggested routes for improvement for settlements in Monmouthshire. These are available to view online from 1 August until 31 October, 2020.
The Mon Life service within the Council has worked hard over the past six months to increase the focus on Active Travel. The aim is to encourage those who can, to leave their cars at home when travelling to work, shops, schools, a place of leisure or to get to a train station. Active Travel is not about walking and cycling for leisure but it could also significantly enhance leisure activities by helping link up existing path and road networks, and is an important contributor in addressing the current climate emergency – helping to reduce vehicle emissions. It also has the benefit of improving physical and mental wellbeing.
Due to the restrictions in place as a result of COVID-19, digital consultation is a key part of the process. There will be webinars in addition to socially distanced face-to-face events. Details about the webinars, the interactive maps and residents’ surveys can be found on the council’s website: www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/active-travel-consultation.
Lord Burns’ South East Wales Transport Commission has published its Emerging Conclusions. Here are extracts from the Summary of a lot of information available at https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2020-07/emerging-conclusions.pdf:
Congestion on the M4 is largely a peak-hours problem, predominantly associated with commuting. A relatively small increase in traffic leads to a disproportionate increase in congestion. Many people do not have good transport alternatives to the motorway. The combination of the rail, bus and active travel networks do not accommodate the range of the journeys that people are undertaking, particularly commutes. All of the rail, bus and active travel networks are offering insufficient services. The individual modes are also poorly integrated, in relation to interchange, timetables and ticketing. This limits the value of each part. There is insufficient regional coordination. Land use decisions with respect to homes, offices and retail parks have contributed to congestion and, on the current trajectory, this looks set to continue. At the same time, the population of the region’s cities is projected to rise considerably. Without action, this will place additional pressure on the motorway.
If we are to alleviate congestion, we need to create attractive and viable alternatives for people. Until these exist, it is very difficult to solve the problem sustainably. Of course, the COVID-19 epidemic has radically changed the situation – the question is for how long. Traffic is at a much lower level and we expect congestion to be less problematic while social distancing is in place. In the long term, a substantive and sustained increase in remote working could have a meaningful impact on reducing traffic. However, our view remains that in order to function efficiently, the region requires additional, non-car transport options. Overall, a key emerging recommendation is a ‘Network of Alternatives’ for South East Wales. A network approach puts a focus on integration, allowing for flexible journeys, reflecting the diversity of types of trips that people want to make. When the different parts work together, its value can be greater than the sum of its parts. Our final report will make specific recommendations to the Welsh Government. These will cover all modes of transport, as well as wider policy on land use, governance and charging.
GAVO has arranged a FREE online Grant Writing Workshop on 23 July 6-7pm. Book your tickets on Eventbrite here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/introduction-to-grant-writing-online-workshop-virtual-tickets-110102523612. The workshop is aimed at helping groups to improve the quality of their funding applications and is being offered by Be Community in partnership with GAVO. GAVO development officers will be available for follow up support. It’s a great opportunity to learn the basics or to hone your skills in preparing grant applications..
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.