Introduction to North West Wales Area Statement
Working with air, land and water managers across North West Wales to promote and develop sustainable resource management contributing to the health of all life in the area
These Area Statements summarise discussions from the last couple of years. We are continuing engagement on Area Statements and are adapting our plans for future events and workshops due to the coronavirus pandemic. Please use the feedback boxes on each Area Statement page to find out more.
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North West Wales has an extraordinary landscape of spectacular mountains and coast that have been shaped by nature and people over time and are steeped in history and culture, making it the area’s main asset. The landscape has the power to inspire and enrich lives and attracts thousands of visitors each year.
Farming is the dominant land use in the North West region, although this theme is aimed at the broad reach of resource managers from community managed woodlands, Local Authorities, water companies, hospitals, schools and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) managed land which accounts for almost eight percent of the area. This Area Statement presents an opportunity to embark on an integrated approach to how we manage our most important and irreplaceable resource - our land and the water that flows off it, into our rivers and sea.
The uplands in North West Wales are a key and well-loved feature of the iconic and cultural landscape of the area. Uplands dominate much of the area’s landscape, with land above the upland boundary occupying 58 percent (2611km2), a third of which are exposed upland/plateau landscapes area, giving the region its distinct mountainous character. The uplands are important for biodiversity and landscape as well as being of value to farming, forestry, recreation, natural resources, culture and language.
The total length of picturesque coastline in North West Wales is 585km, which equates to 45.5 percent of the Welsh total. The area has some of the best bathing beaches and waters in Wales, including marine nature reserves, designated marine sites and some of Europe’s most important sand dune systems at Morfa Harlech, Morfa Dyffryn and Newborough. Coastal habitats provide many benefits to society including recreation and areas such as saltmarshes, sand dunes and shingle banks that provide natural flood protection for coastal communities and agricultural land. A Marine Area Statement has been developed that provides further information about the marine environment across Wales.
North West Wales has a number of important fisheries, including shell fisheries. The Conwy, Ogwen, Mawddach, Seiont, Dwyfor, Glaslyn, Clwyd and the Dwyryd catchments all support locally important salmon and sea trout fisheries and the Afon Dyfi and Dee catchments are nationally important salmon and sea trout rivers.
The salmon and sea trout stocks in all of the rivers in North West Wales are currently vulnerable and are predicted to remain so for the next five years, with only the Afon Ogwen predicted not to be ‘at risk’. Sustainable land and water management will be critical in helping to reduce the challenges to fish populations and improve numbers and resilience to ecological changes.
There are a number of lakes and reservoirs across North West Wales, all of which have significant importance for water supply, electricity generation, flood risk management, recreational use, well-being and ecology. Lakes are a sensitive and important receptor for land use practices, they provide a sink for sediment and nutrients within catchments. Most lakes in North West Wales provide multiple opportunities for use, for example, Llyn Cwellyn and Cefni provide water supply and are used recreationally while, Trawsfynnyd provides recreational use through fishing, walking and cycle routes as well as electricity generation. Llyn Tegid is a Special Area of Conservation that supports numerous important species and plays an important role in water supply and flood risk management on the River Dee. Llyn Celyn, Cowlyd and Peris are all important for electricity generation and Llyn Padarn is the only inland bathing water in Wales and provides a range of recreational opportunities, including: swimming, boating and fishing as well as an important habitat for arctic char and other fish species. Anglesey also has a number of small, shallow lakes which are an important part of the island’s wetland ecosystem.
North West Wales has rich mineral deposits that have shaped the mining and quarrying history of the area, and continues to do so with several deposits still actively quarried. The exploitation of mineral resources has a long history, with evidence of Bronze-Age copper mining on the Great Orme and Mynydd Parys as well as Roman use of Welsh slate. The slate landscape of North West Wales has been nominated to become an UNESCO World Heritage Site, to celebrate the industrial and cultural influence of slate on the region. It is strange now to stand in the landscape surrounded by the deserted quarries and imagine the noise and people that would have been there.
Many parts of North West Wales are designated landscapes, for example, Snowdonia National Park which covers 47 percent of the area, and two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB’s) that are located on the Llyn Peninsular and Anglesey. Put together, this means that approximately 56 percent of the land in the region is designated because of its cultural landscape value.
Sustaining the natural environment will help all of us. We now recognise that so much of what is good for the environment is also good for people’s well-being as we all benefit from the services our natural resources provide, from clean air and water provision to food production, materials and the economy.
To facilitate the development of the Area Statement, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) held three workshops in North West Wales during July 2019 and a session for staff. Based on these discussions it is clear that there was support for opportunities for the 'Supporting Sustainable Land Management' theme among the stakeholders. The developed themes were taken back to the stakeholders for validation at our second round of engagement workshops in November and December 2019. More information and detail on this can be found in the Introduction to the Area Statement and in the 'Ways of working' theme.
Sustaining the natural environment will help all of us, including: farmers, foresters, communities and individuals as we all benefit from the services our natural resources provide such as clean air and water provision, waste management, food production and materials.
To recognise that the farming industry is operating within a period of unprecedented uncertainty, although this gives farmers a unique opportunity to set a clear vision for the future of Welsh farming.
During the workshops, the importance of farming in the area was recognised strongly. As it is a backbone of the rural communities of North West Wales, we recognise its strengths and realise its potential. The reach and impact of farming goes beyond its economic value alone, it is essential as a means of ensuring the social, cultural and economic resilience and the well-being of rural communities.
How to manage water was also raised many times, both in terms of water quality and water quantity and how working together taking a sustainable catchment approach was critical.
Linking the culture and management of the land to new opportunities for the communities in places like Penmachno are key, and projects like Uwch Conwy project in Cwm Penmachno, or the LIFE project on Anglesey and the Llyn Peninsula are good models to follow. The Dyfi Biosphere, designated under UNESCO, is partly located within North West Wales. Biosphere Reserves explore locally how sustainable livelihoods, vibrant cultures and robust economies can be based on healthy environments. It would be good to strengthen links with the Biosphere and learn from the many projects they have undertaken.
This theme is closely linked with the Resilient Ecosystems theme, both of which will help deliver NRW’s Vital Nature Programme and ensure biodiversity and ecosystem networks are ecologically connected with the wider landscape, seascape and those that live and work there.
According to the findings of the statutory State of Natural Resources Report (SoNaRR), all ecosystems lack resilience in one or more aspect/attribute. This means that their capacity to provide ecosystem services and benefits may be at risk. Changes in the overall resilience of these key ecosystems have been heavily influenced by farming, which in turn has been driven by the system of support under various agricultural policy regimes introduced in the UK post-war.
The Natural Resources Wales Policy states that Welsh Government is committed to considering the potential for introducing a more results-based approach to land-based support; for which the required outcomes are informed by local consultation and Area Statements.
There are multiple benefits for both people and wildlife that can be derived from sustainable land management. The resilience and healthy functioning ecosystems that support the flow of benefits that natural resources provide include economic, social and cultural benefits as well as contributing to the seven well-being goals, set out under the Well-being of Future Generations Act.
All of the opportunities identified below will only be supported at environmentally appropriate locations.
Working with nature-based solutions from source to sea to restore and emulate the natural functions of catchments, floodplains and rivers in North West Wales. This could be done by working with Dwr Cymru/Welsh Water (DCWW) to undertake Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (SMNR) pilot catchments as part of their National Environment Plan (NEP) to find sustainable and more cost-effective solutions to achieving improved ecological quality.
This theme encourages opportunities to help develop sustainable production and provides the possibility of further development of local brands (Mon, Meirionnydd), which can be used to underpin quality outputs from the agri-food, timber, tourism, and environmental sectors.
Managing the landscape for the benefit of tourism, recreation, and local communities, the Welsh language and vibrant rural communities.
Work collaboratively in groups and build knowledge and skills to deliver shared outcomes, especially where ecosystems overlap farm holdings, common land and river catchments.
Working together to develop options for local agricultural schemes that deliver multiple benefits. Achieving sustainable land management starts with understanding locally what the issues are; we must make it easier to support farmers to maintain profits and manage their holdings in an environmentally friendlier way e.g. improved soil health and fertility, improved water quality, reduced nutrient losses to water, increased carbon storage and more habitats rich in biodiversity. We could explore opportunities to have pilot initiatives on farms where monitoring of water quality and species can be tracked and demonstrated, with best practice and lessons learned shared.
Working at a local level to avoid “one size fits all” approaches to farm subsidy and allow for distinctive differences in farming across the area as the area is varied with different and distinct habitats.
There is notably less woodland cover in the area (13.0 percent) and as low as 4.5 percent on Anglesey, which is lower than the national average of 15 percent for Wales. We need to ensure that the right trees are planted in the right places and this is an area that requires further research. New woodland expansion needs to be carefully targeted to ensure maximum public benefit. The management of woodland should be incorporated to a much greater extent into the farm economy.
Improving habitat connectivity and creation through restoring neglected woodland and derelict hedges can allow species to move between areas. Allowing grassy field margins can also provide additional biodiversity benefits by connecting habitats.
Strategic planting of trees around livestock/poultry units where appropriate can help to reduce ammonia drift reducing nitrogen deposition on sensitive environmental sites. It will also improve on farm water management, and contribute positively to animal health by providing shelter whilst increasing biodiversity and contributing to carbon storage.
NRW directly manages 34,622 hectares (almost 8 percent) of land in the North West Area. NRW should be an exemplary organisation in how we go about our day-to-day activities in managing our land and assets.
The public sector and (Non-Governmental Organisations) NGOs can also play an exemplar a role in delivering sustainable land management trying out new approaches to land and water management.
Working with Commons Associations by encouraging large scale agreements on common land, encouraging co-operation between commoners, on often large areas of grazed upland, is essential.
We recognise that water companies are increasingly taking innovative approaches to safeguard clean drinking water through catchment management with landowners and partners. We need to continue to work on reducing pesticides, fertilisers, nutrients, and pathogens at source and minimising the amounts getting into streams, rivers, and reservoirs. With a changing climate, we need to continue to ensure that the amount of water being taken from rivers, reservoirs or out of the ground can be sustained without damage to the environment now and in the future.
The long history of mining and quarrying in the area has left a legacy of disused quarries, mine spoil, shafts and underground workings. There is an opportunity to assess the potential impact of what reclamation, mitigation and remediation measures would be effective.
There is an opportunity for collaboration with partners to improve river, freshwater, and wetland habitats, working towards providing the best habitats for fish and native freshwater aquatic life in the North West, for example to create river and stream woodland corridors to help manage trap silt and reduce runoff. The restoration of riparian habitat, including buffer strips and tree planting (where appropriate) to keep rivers cool and reduce sediment load and run off that can affect water quality and smother fish eggs in river gravels. The restoration of the in-river structure, including the re-introduction of boulders or woody material in the Conwy, Llyfni, Mawddach, Clwyd and Dee Rivers where appropriate. This also links with our theme on Resilient Ecosystems. There are also opportunities for restoring natural geomorphological processes, in particular the removal of obstructions to fish passage that prevent access to spawning areas and natural gravel movements such as the removal of weirs that are no longer used on the Llyfni, Dyfi, Dee, Clwyd, Conwy Rivers.
Opportunities exist to extend the coastal belt inland, where conditions allow, to restore habitats possibly along the northern coast of the Llŷn Peninsula and Anglesey. The creation of buffer zones between cliff tops and areas of intensive agricultural management inland could be beneficial.
Opportunities to capitalise on local produce and local procurement as highlighted in the Encouraging a sustainable economy theme.
On 14th May 2020 NRW plans to hold another stakeholder meeting to bring together everyone who has contributed this process to-date to review the opportunities and agree collaborative next steps for the North West Area Statement process.
We will establish theme subgroups to develop the area wide vision for this theme – with a broad remit and wide representation. We will identify potential partners and interested individuals and groups, gaps in knowledge and linkages with local strategies and action plans.
We will use the information gathered during the stakeholder engagement events (external, internal, with partners such as the National Parks Authority) to guide the activities of these thematic subgroups.
Each thematic subgroup will need to review what information and data we have so far, plan who we talk to next, look for theories of change, identify barriers and how to overcome and explore opportunities for appropriate action. The Area Statement will be an iterative document that will change and evolve over time. The subgroups will be responsible for determining when plans need to change and who needs to be involved in that process (the governance of the area statement).
The suggestions that are taken forward as ‘Lily Pad’ projects are designed to build stakeholder trust and cohesion through working on defined interventions. They use this experience to ‘leap’ on to the next, maybe less certain step in the Area Statement process that has been mapped out by the theme subgroups, and ‘learn through doing’ along the way. In this way, issues around stakeholder engagement and co-design and delivery might be better understood, and concerns addressed.
From this will be able to engage with and enthuse a broader group of stakeholders beyond the wider environmental sector in a targeted way and with a stronger focus on involving and engaging local groups and individuals. This could mean a variety of approaches, including: social media, traditional media, community meetings, drop-in sessions and the strengths of our partners so that we’re all working together to deliver the Area Statement vision and ambitions.
In addition, the appropriate control of Invasive Non Native Species (INNS) at an appropriate scale and replanting of tree cover affected by disease will also support ecosystem resilience.
The Area Statement will allow us all to make clear, evidence-based decisions, drawing not only on information that we hold but evidence our partners provide which is held locally. Much of the data will be made available to all through Natural Resources Wales’ new data portal. We appreciate that there are gaps in our evidence, but we’re working to plug them.
We welcome opportunities for the public to engage with us at any stage of the Area Statement process. We plan to hold community drop in sessions and workshops during 2020 to help us develop research, look into opportunities and talk to us about your community ideas and consider how they might be funded.
There is also a feedback form and an Email address: email@example.com should you wish to write to us with your ideas.