Sustainable land, water and air

Image by Peter Lewis

Since the Area Statements were published in March 2020 they have naturally evolved to reflect post-pandemic priorities for our environment across Mid Wales.

 

There has been a focus towards enabling and empowering communities to develop their own resilience, with support, to help tackle the climate and nature emergencies at the local scale. 

Why this theme?

Mid Wales, predominantly the counties of Powys and Ceredigion, are amongst the richest parts of Wales for landscape, nature and ‘wilderness’. Agriculture employs a large number of people and influences the area far beyond the farm gate. It provides food for Wales and the world; it provides associated employment in numerous rural businesses, the public sector and tourism; it creates thriving communities and a sense of place spanning different generations. Farmers are integral to Mid Wales, its culture and its landscape.
  

sunset against hills with sheep in foregroundImage by Peter Lewis

Much of the Mid Wales landscape forms the characteristic exposed upland moorland with scattered forestry. Typically much of this landscape is classed as ‘agriculturally less favoured’ land, and historically has been undervalued for its importance in providing vital ‘ecosystem services’ – biodiversity, water storage, carbon storage and recreation to name but a few. Traditionally the uplands have been used for rough grazing of sheep and cattle and lower lying areas in Ceredigion have a greater abundance of dairy herds. Arable farming is scattered throughout the lower lying areas. 

As rural farm businesses look to diversify, poultry units have become increasingly popular on many farm holdings, with large incentives from the food sector. Whilst this has clearly benefitted some parts of the agricultural sector, there have been harmful impacts on the natural environment as a direct result of the significant increases in ammonia and nitrates from the volume of manure generated. While ammonia air pollution emissions have generally stabilised across the UK, they have increased significantly in Mid Wales largely due to this expansion in poultry numbers. Wales is now one of the largest producers of free-range eggs in Europe. This trend is continuing as rural businesses continually have a need to diversify.

Ammonia is toxic to native plants and habitats, and its accumulation and spread in the natural environment can lead to significant damage to habitats and species loss. Ammonia pollution from the increasing number of intensive agricultural units is now a very significant threat to the survival of the rich variety of rare pollution-sensitive lichens scattered throughout Mid Wales. Urgent measures are required to address this ongoing threat to our natural environment.

Hay meadow with forestry in the backgroundImage by Rhys Jenkins

Water is one of our most essential natural resources. We need to balance the water needs of the environment, society and the economy, both now and in the future.

We face a number of challenges which will have an impact on our water resources and the way they are managed. These include population growth, an increased national demand for water and climate change.  

With the high prevalence of intensive agriculture, the potential for environmental incidents caused by slurry related pollution is a significant problem in Mid Wales. Whilst the vast majority of farm businesses operate responsibly with respect for the natural environment, accidents can still happen, often as a result of old farm infrastructure, when slurry or other pollutants leak and enter the river systems, damaging habitat, killing aquatic life and polluting our water supplies.

The source of the River Severn, the UK’s longest river, lies in the heart of Mid Wales. The River Severn provides water resources to large areas of England and Wales. Llyn Clywedog and Llyn Vyrnwy are used to regulate the flow in the Severn to ensure water resource availability. The River Wye in south Powys is managed in a similar way. Water is released from the Elan Valley Reservoirs to provide public water supply to much of the West Midlands. There is increasing pressure on the water resources of Mid Wales to provide for an ever expanding population.

Fish leaping out of waterImage by Peter Lewis

In addition to managing our water resources, coastal and fluvial (from rivers) and surface water flooding continues to threaten our communities, businesses and environment, and examples of this are being increasingly witnessed in flooding events across Mid Wales. The communities and agricultural land along the Ceredigion coast are particularly at threat from rising sea levels. Sea defences offer some protection to coastal assets. But the long-term protection of these vulnerable areas pose serious challenges to both communities and policy makers.

Natural Flood Risk Management (NFRM) is one way to help address flood risk. NFRM can provide environmentally sensitive approaches to reducing flood risk in areas where further hard flood defences are not feasible or cost-effective. These can include tree planting, in-stream obstructions (such as porous dams), soil and land management, dune and beach management and creation of new wetlands. The principal aim of adopting NFRM measures is to help slow water flows (‘slow the flow’) through a catchment, thus reducing and delaying peak flows. It is often most effective in larger catchment scale projects.

As incidents of flooding are set to become more frequent in the future as a result of climate change, the communities of Mid Wales need to become more adaptive and resilient, enabling them to prepare and respond to events through improved planning and management.

With the high prevalence of more intense agriculture in the area, the potential for environmental incidents caused by slurry related pollution is a significant problem in Mid Wales. Whilst the vast majority of farm businesses operate responsibly with respect for the natural environment, accidents can still happen, often as a result of old farm infrastructure, when slurry or other pollutants leak and enter the river systems, damaging habitat, killing aquatic life and polluting our water supplies.

The main areas of focus under this theme are:

  • Support farm businesses through ways of working that minimise impacts on the environment

  • Take measures to reduce pollution incidents through better management of potential sources of pollution (such as slurry & manure stores)

  • Work with businesses, communities and policy makers to review current agricultural policies and schemes and explore new options for Payment for Ecosystem Services

  • Manage our water resources to improve the quality and quantity of available water, without causing detriment to the natural environment

  • Help to create adaptive and resilient communities in response to adverse weather events and climate change

  • Support new ideas around developing Nature Based Solutions - for example, using Natural Flood Risk Management

The above list of points are designed to provide guidance and help set priorities, for projects and collaborative working. By approaching these focus areas together, we will also be helping to tackle the Climate Emergency at the local scale. This list of focus areas is by no means exhaustive and do not exclude any newly emerging issues, ideas or solutions. We want to encourage communities to develop innovative ideas for their own community wellbeing initiatives

What would success look like?

Farmers understand the land under their stewardship and place great value on it. They are aware of the generations that went before them and how they adapted and nurtured their farms. They now look to future generations to diversify and manage their land sustainably.

The Mid Wales Area Statement aims to encourage new conversations. Farmers, land managers and other stakeholders will come together to reach a consensus and achieve a combined understanding of what needs to be done and how it will be tackled. Together, we will develop solutions that have benefits for food production, communities and the environment.

There is already a vast spectrum of amazing work being carried out with passion by the people of Mid Wales.  Good practice already seen across Mid Wales should be celebrated whilst looking for innovative ways to address challenges.

There are still opportunities to discuss further how to shape these changes, but if the correct outcomes are delivered under this theme, we can hope to see:

  • Supported sustainable farming practices that minimise pollution and maximise environmental gain

  • Appropriate space for both agriculture and nature

  • An improvement in the water quality of our rivers, with a marked reduction in phosphate levels

  • Better nutrient, soil & water management planning within the agricultural sector

  • Reduction in the impacts of air pollution (nitrates and ammonia) on our natural environment

  • Improved management of our water resources - balancing the demands of our water supply with the needs of the environment

  • Natural flood risk management applied as a practical and viable option that compliments traditional flood risk approaches

  • A change in approach of how we work - leading to a better understanding of the need to work together

Who have we worked with to date?

In the development of the Area Statement, NRW used a range of evidence based resources, including the State of Natural Resources Report (SoNaRR) and the Welsh Government’s Natural Resources Policy. We also sourced information from the Powys & Ceredigion Well-being Plans and the Public Service Boards (PSBs) to join up with their priorities and Wellbeing Objectives, based around local need.

NRW are a key partner in the Mid Wales Public Service Boards (PSBs). Each local authority in Wales has a Public Service Board (PSB), designed to enable public bodies to work together to improve the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of the area and create a better future for the people of Wales. In Mid Wales, we have the Powys PSB and the Ceredigion PSB

The PSBs have undertaken a Wellbeing Assessment to understand the specific issues and priorities within their local communities. They produced a Wellbeing Plan with definitive Wellbeing Objectives, set out to improve the well-being of communities. The current wellbeing plans & objectives run from 2018-2023

NRW are working as part of the Ceredigion and Powys PSBs to deliver the wellbeing objectives at the community level.

Further information on the Ceredigion PSB and Powys PSB can be found by clicking on the link.

We involved our stakeholders throughout the Area Statement development process, and continue to do so.

Since initial publication in March 2020, we continued to engage with our partners and stakeholders despite the difficulties associated with a global pandemic.  We were enthused at the passion and enthusiasm of our partners and stakeholders in helping us continue to drive the Mid Wales Area Statement forward, and for this we would like to thank everyone who has contributed so far.

A number of engagement workshops were held during 2019-2021 to ask our stakeholders what they wanted to see as part of the Mid Area Statement.

It is very clear, from our engagement to date and the feedback we’ve received, that the Area Statement process represents a culture shift. Everyone, including NRW, is going to have to adjust to this new way of working. It’s a challenge, but one we all need to embrace for the future sustainable management of our natural resources.

Engagement Activities

9 Engagement Event, 224 Participants in Peer Groups, 241 Facebook Followers and 764 people have engaged so far

Figures reflective of engagement events carried out 2019-2021

It was clear from the engagement and feedback that the Area Statement process is new for everyone involved and the ‘new way of working’ continues to represent a significant shift from how we have all worked in the past. Success requires continued learning, reflection and adjustment in the way we all work. 

The events encouraged discussion around the type of projects and areas of interest that stakeholders are keen to work on. We want to encourage and progress opportunities for collaboration.

The 2022 review of the Mid Area Statement is designed to update this core text to reflect the natural development of the Area Statement over the first two years.  The changes since initial publication demonstrate how the area statement process has naturally evolved, based on ever-improving evidence from both NRW’s work and stakeholder input. Our engagement will continue as the Area Statement matures, develops and evolves.

The Area Statement process is iterative, and the next stage will continue to develop and implement actions for Mid Wales. 

We need to continue to engage and help stakeholders understand why they have been invited to be part of this Area Statement and what it will mean for them. 

It is important to stress that this Area Statement belongs to us all. We see Natural Resources Wales’ role as helping to facilitate, encourage and enable different stakeholders to get together and identify priorities around the area themes on which they can progress actions into delivery. NRW want to move away from ‘consultation’ and towards ‘collaboration’ and action on the ground, even if that remains an uncertain journey for many as we progress the Mid Wales Area Statement.

Many of the participants from the engagement work to date have established working relationships with Natural Resources Wales and with each other. The ongoing engagement process allows for further opportunities to both grow established relationships and create new ones. It is not too late to still get involved if you have a good project or idea for a project! We expect further opportunities to arise as the engagement process continues. We would like to encourage as many as possible to come aboard. 

What are the next steps?


It will take long term commitment from us all to achieve real change.  Collectively we need to develop a way to work together to tackle environmental issues as a society. This can already be seen across Mid Wales in the numerous projects that already exist. We want to celebrate and build on everything that is already being done, and use this Area Statement as a vehicle to bring people and organisations together to promote collaboration and encourage joined-up working.

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has begun to identify networks where projects with similar outcomes can be combined and worked on collaboratively. There is a particular intention in Mid Wales to bring together stakeholders who may not have traditionally worked alongside each other, but together can deliver outcomes which have multiple benefits for everyone. The Ceredigion and Powys PSB’s have adopted this approach in delivery of their functions; in Ceredigion developing a number of ‘sub-groups’ to tackle social, environmental, cultural and economic issues at a place level.

Over the coming months and years, we would like to see projects and opportunities develop to deliver

  • Develop a series of collaborative projects between farmers and stakeholders to gain a better understanding of the issues and reach outcomes with mutual benefits for all

  • Develop catchment and landscape scale approaches to tackle pollution at source

  • Implement better manure management strategies - working with the industry, farmers and decision makers

  • Improve the evidence base to better assess and manage the health of our soils and encourage practical measures to reduce soil erosion

  • Work across sectors to maintain, improve and restore water quality and river habitat

  • Explore opportunites for innovative Natural Flood Risk Management (NFRM) schemes within our landscapes and catchments and encourage communities to develop their resilience through nature based solutions

  • Work more collaboratively to ensure our communities and assets are protected, now and for the future

There will be opportunities for financial support to deliver projects and ideas through Natural Resources Wales’ grant funding system. Please contact us for further details of the current grants available, or see NRW’s grants page.

How does what we’ve proposed deliver Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (SMNR)?

The Area Statement takes an evidence-based approach. We need to continue to build our evidence base for Mid Wales, to enable better decision making for the future.  Gaps in evidence can be reviewed and added to through working together and using all available data to further the objective of each theme.

Through engaging with stakeholders, we have been able to work together to identify the area themes for Mid Wales. Conversations and discussions have given us an understanding of the issues and pressures faced by different stakeholders, sectors and communities. 

Throughout the process, it has become clear that this Area Statement needs to continue to engage and inspire a wide range of stakeholders and communities (beyond the environmental sector) to deliver successful results on the ground, as well as raising the profile of the natural environment amongst local communities and establish new ways for enhanced access by all.

How can people get involved?


Join us on Facebook! The Mid Area Statement Facebook group is one way for you to keep up to date with news and developments on the Mid Wales Area Statement. Anyone can join in the online discussion. The group is currently set to private, although we encourage you to spread the word amongst colleagues and contacts who you think would be interested. You will be asked three simple questions to join the group to ensure we keep the members and content relevant to the Mid Wales Area Statement.

We will also be holding further events and conversations around each of the Mid Wales themes. If you are already on our mailing list, you will be contacted about these. If you would like to be added to this list, please email mid.as@cyfoethnaturiolcymru.gov.uk

We need to continue to develop the Area Statement together, to tackle the nature emergency in Mid Wales.  The Area Statement belongs to us all - everyone who wants to be involved - and we would like to encourage as many as possible to come aboard at any point to help develop the Area Statement as a continually evolving process.  If you would like to be part of this process, please get in touch with us.

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