New CEO for National Park

Brecon Beacons National Park Authority has announced that they have appointed Catherine Mealing-Jones as their new Chief Executive Officer, Catherine will take up the post in July 2021.Catherine is currently Director of Growth at the UK Space Agency where she has been leading strategy, policy and programmes to drive economic growth in the space sector and the wider economy, bringing space into local economic development strategies, and driving innovative new uses of space technology, data and applications.

Wye Valley Tunnel Opens to Walkers and Cyclists

After years of campaigning and preparation a pedestrian and cycle path on a disused railway line in the Wye Valley has now opened.  The Wye Valley Greenway project aims to repurpose the long-since defunct railway line between Chepstow and Monmouth.  Part of the line – now open to the public – passes through a 1km tunnel near the National Diving and Activity Centre (NDAC) just outside Chepstow.

The tunnel was surveyed for 18 months before being opened to the public, as the area is important for lesser horseshoe bats.  Low level lighting has been installed which, although disorienting at first, gives the tunnel atmosphere as well as protecting the bats.  To protect the bats the tunnel section is closed off at night with large gates.

However, concerns have already been expressed about the safety of mixing walkers and cyclists in the narrow low-lit tunnel where no cycle lights or torches are allowed.

NRW Seeking Board Members

Welsh Government is looking for three people to join the Board at Natural Resources Wales.  Applications are welcome from anyone who is passionate about making a difference to Wales’ environment, from candidates from all backgrounds and walks of life, and particularly from under-represented groups.

Applications opened on 25 March and the closing date is Friday 23 April 2021.   During this time, NRW will be holding drop in engagement sessions for prospective candidates. To book a place at one of the information events, contact NRW’s Board Secretariat.  Follow this link for more details and the application form.

Meadows News – Nature Isn’t Neat

The Monmouthshire Meadows Group Spring Newsletter has just been published and is available to download here: MMG Newsletter Spring 2021.  Among many interesting items, some of which are quite specialised, is one by MCC’s Sue Parkinson on their Nature Isn’t Neat project during lockdown, turning vast areas of our open spaces into ‘temporary’ meadows.  Note that the reference on p16 to allowing neonicotinoids has been overtaken by events – our invertebrates are safe from this pesticide for now because the colder weather has killed off the virus-transmitting aphids that were thought to be threatening the crop.

Beyond Recycling – No More Incinerators

The Welsh Government has published its final Beyond Recycling strategy to make the circular economy a reality where we keep resources in use and avoid waste. To quote an enthusiastic Friends of the Earth Cymru ‘the final strategy is even better than its consultation.  The government still has a zero waste target of 2050. But the measures in this strategy will, hopefully, get us to that point long before then. This is a crucial development.  And now for the incredible news. The Welsh Government has announced no more new incinerators! This is a game-changer for Wales. It really is a massive win.’

20mph Pilots for Monmouthshire

Welsh Government plans for a default 20mph speed limit on Welsh roads have moved a step closer as eight pilot areas to trial the change have been confirmed. The pilot areas include Abergavenny and Severnside and will have a phased start from this summer until the end of the year. They come ahead of the planned national rollout for April 2023, and will help develop enforcement arrangements and overcome unforeseen issues before the full rollout.  The pilots will focus on community engagement, meaning that as well as developing enforcement arrangements they will communicate the value of the new speed limit, making the case for reduced speed leading to more cohesive and safe communities.  The County Council made bids for the pilots and will implement them.

MCC Sessions for Local Food Growers

Monmouthshire County Council is to host a series of online discussion and information sessions aimed at small community growers, market gardeners, allotment holders and traditional farms in addition to businesses interested in using local produce. Featuring key speakers, the first session will be held at 4pm on Thursday 18th February and it will open discussion on key aspects of food development in the county. The meeting will be held via the Microsoft Teams communication platform.

Businesses and producers interested in participating in the first session should contact Monmouthshire’s Rural Food Development Officer, Deserie Mansfield – DeserieMansfield@monmouthshire.gov.uk – or telephone 07816 066046 by 12noon on Thursday 18th February.

A Legal Commitment to Reach Zero by 2050

Welsh Government has set out its legal commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, but is pushing to “get there sooner” as it gets ready for COP26 (26th United Nations’ Climate Change Conference of the Parties) in November. The move comes following a recommendation by the independent Climate Change Committee (CCC), that revealed net zero emissions, previously thought unachievable and unaffordable by experts, was now possible with ambitious policy and a ‘Team Wales’ effort.  The new evidence from the CCC says greater reductions within the industrial sector will help achieve this goal, as a large proportion of Welsh emissions come from a small number of big emitters, such as Port Talbot steelworks.

The report also highlights the need for everyone in Wales to do their bit to drive emissions down, with more than half of the recommendations being partly or fully driven by societal or behavioural changes.

Welsh Government has already announced a suite of measures this year to respond to the climate emergency and reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.  These include plans on achieving cleaner air, putting an end to harmful agricultural pollution, a decisive shift away from fossil fuel extraction and towards green energy, working towards a net zero public sector in Wales by 2030, and going beyond recycling and making Wales a zero waste nation.

The Minister’s statement is at Written Statement: Wales’ pathway to achieve net zero emissions (9 February 2021) | GOV.WALES