Living Levels BioBlitz: Caldicot Castle

SEWBReC will be running a BioBlitz with the Living Levels Project team, and would like to invite recorders of all abilities to join them. The event is taking place at Caldicot Castle on Friday, 17 May 10am – 3pm. They will be showcasing the LERC Wales App plus looking for species in the various habitats in the country park. You can view a species list for the site here. If you are interested in attending you can drop in at any time during the day, or feel free to get in touch with SEWBReC for more information

M4 Decision Early June

With the First Minister’s decision on the M4 relief road now expected early in June, CALM are encouraging campaigners against the road to do all they can to influence the Government, especially in the context of the latest IPCC report and Extinction Rebellion protests. Meanwhile the Director of CBI Wales is suggesting that concerns about the cost might be dealt with by smart automatic tolling of those choosing to use the road. Mr Drakeford’s decision will be followed by a six week opportunity to seek a judicial review and Cabinet spending approval will also be required.

Moving Towards Greater Access

The Welsh Government has published its response to the Chapter 4 Access proposals that were outlined in the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources consultation. The Government will progress significant changes to access rights and facilitate an assumption of non-motorised multi-use on access land and the public rights of way network. This will provide users such as cyclists and horse riders with many more opportunities to access the outdoors near to where they live in line with the goals set out in the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act 2015 and complementing the provisions of the Active Travel (Wales) Act and the Environment (Wales) Act. An independent Access Reform Group will develop ideas such as allowing cycling and horse riding on footpaths.

Sustainable Land Management

The next round of expressions of interest in the Welsh Government’s Sustainable Management Scheme opens on 21 May. It is widely open to organisations that operate principally in a rural area and are engaged in agriculture, forestry or other land management, and aims to support collaborative landscape-scale projects delivering action that improves our natural resources in a way that delivers benefits to farm and rural businesses and rural communities. It will also support and facilitate coordination with other schemes to undertake the vital action needed to improve the resilience of farm and rural businesses and rural communities to climate impacts. Partly EU-funded, the scheme closes in 2020.

A Repair Café at Abergavenny

Abergavenny is to have its first Repair Café on 18 May, at the Community Centre in Park Street (11am – 2pm) and then the third Saturday of every month. The aim is to prolong the life of household items that need fixing and keep them out of landfill, as well as saving you money. The service is free but they need talented volunteers – contact repaircafeabergavenny@gmail.com.

Prosperity for All – a Low Carbon Wales

Welsh Government Ministers have just published a 200-page strategy, Prosperity for All: a Low Carbon Wales, which sets out how the country will meet its first carbon budget due by 2030, as well as setting the country on course for the later target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050.  It’s at https://gweddill.gov.wales/topics/environmentcountryside/climatechange/emissions/prosperity-for-all-a-low-carbon-wales/?lang=en

According to this blueprint, tree planting will have to increase to at least 2,000 hectares a year soon before doubling to 4,000 hectares annually “as rapidly as possible”.

Other key policies in this strategy include:

  • Commissioning an independent feasibility study on carbon capture use and storage;
  • Reducing emissions from power generation in Wales using consenting, planning and permitting powers;
  • Developing a policy position on the fuels used to generate power;
  • Encouraging the take-up of electric vehicles by developing a rapid charging network;
  • Planning for buses, taxis and private hire vehicles to be zero-emission by 2028; and
  • Reviewing building regulations so higher energy-efficiency standards can be set for new-builds.

Lesley Griffiths, minister for environment, energy and rural affairs, told AMs: “The plan pulls together 76 existing pieces of policy from across the Welsh and UK governments and the EU where decarbonisation is integrated either as a direct outcome or a wider benefit.

“Some of these are new Welsh Government policies which have come on stream since the start of the budget period, such as the economic action plan and renewable energy targets, or revamped policies such as Planning Policy Wales where decarbonisation is now a central pillar.”

Assembly Questioning Provision for Electric Cars

An Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee inquiry shows that Wales could benefit greatly from increased electric car use, but that would require significant changes to the current power and road infrastructure. These could help eliminate barriers including range anxiety when potential users worry about their ability to complete a full journey.

The Welsh Government recently announced a £2 million investment in improving the charge point infrastructure, but the Committee questions whether that is enough and asks what ministers are doing to encourage private sector investment, particularly in rural areas.

In publishing its initial findings now, the Committee wants to hear from vehicle users, suppliers and anyone with an interest in the area to help shape its final report, including any recommendations. People wishing to contribute can do so through an online discussions channel set up for the inquiry, or by finding out more information from the Committee’s web pages.

Improvements at STJ

Among £50m worth of ‘Metro Plus’ schemes for the Cardiff Capital Region are improvements at Severn Tunnel Junction rail station.  As additional 150-200 space car park on the south side, 40 m0re bike-and-ride spaces, an improved bus-rail interchange, and electric vehicle charging spaces will be provided, for completion by 2022.  There will also be a park-and-ride facility east of Newport and Pontypool and New Inn station will have at least 200 parking spaces.

Mowing Verges

Monmouthshire Meadows Group have drawn our attention to this: ‘Monmouthshire County Council have updated their policy on mowing and issued a related statement which you can read on their web site.   All sounds good – let’s keep an eye on progress and if you do see any good practice perhaps let the Council know how much it’s appreciated (as well, of course, as notifying them when this policy isn’t followed by their contractors)’.