Conservation Professionals in Attack on Blueprint for Environment; 'THE COUNTRYSIDE WILL NOT GET SUFFICIENT PROTECTION'

Article excerpt

Byline: MARTIN SHIPTON

COUNTRYSIDE managers and conservation professionals have delivered a scathing verdict on the Welsh Government's blueprint for the environment, saying it fails to address the needs of Wales.

The Natural Environment Framework (NEF) has been hailed by the Government as the vehicle that will see Wales' environment treated as an integrated whole, rather than a series of unrelated policy areas.

The National Assembly is the only legislature in the world that has a legal obligation to promote sustainable development. But Natur, the Welsh Institute of Countryside and Conservation Management, says NEF has failed to deliver.

A report written by Natur last month that has been sent to the Western Mail states: "We began this process full of optimism, believing that we were being invited to take part in a visionary new framework that would put the wildlife and countryside of Wales at the heart of Government thinking.

"A large number of professionals and experts came together and took time to deliver a considered and detailed response to earlier drafts of NEF, a response that was very well received by many individuals and organisations with an interest in the Welsh countryside.

"It is disappointing, therefore, to be considering these same issues again when there is little evidence that our comments have influenced NEF. We feel that NEF is not moving forward in a direction that will offer sufficient protection for the Welsh countryside."

The report goes on to criticise the proposal to merge the Environment Agency, the Countryside Council for Wales and the Forestry Commission: "Consideration is being given to the establishment of a single environmental body before any decisions have been made on what it should deliver. We feel that this is the wrong way round.

"Here in Wales we have an excellent track record and have achieved a great deal for our environment. We feel that the starting point for NEF should be to build on these achievements rather than starting again with a costly, high risk and unproven approach.

"The development of NEF is not being given the time and expert involvement that previous environmental legislation has received. In keeping with past practice, we believe that environmental experts should take a more integrated role in the development of NEF. …