Cuts threat to Welsh regime
THE entire Welsh countryside programme is under threat from a government cost-cutting plan, warns a top conservationist.
Merfyn Williams, director of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, says Welsh Secretary John Redwoods so-called "green agenda" is nothing more than a damaging cost-cutting exercise.
He told members of the Montgomeryshire County Branch of the Farmers Union of Wales that the ministers action plan for the reform of the Countryside Council for Wales, including a 30% cut in staff and funding, was "more like a disaster plan for nature and conservation".
"If this plan is implemented it will mean a huge loss of day-to-day countryside management and, even more importantly, the loss of a Wales-wide strategic dimension," said Mr Williams.
"The Secretary of State has denied Wales the opportunities offered by the CCW to develop integrated conservation schemes, standardised access provision and to establish a strategic programme for the improvement of the physical environment."
Mr Williams said the CCW had begun to pull together all the different parties with an interest in countryside management, including farmers, without whom nothing could be achieved.
"Mr Redwood, single-handedly, is now attempting to dismantle it."
He was speaking during an FUW farm walk at Trefnant Hall, Berriew, Powys, whose tenant, David Jones, is one of FARMERS WEEKLYs regular Farmer Focus contributors.
Bob Parry, FUW president, agreed that farmers and conservationists would need to work together more closely in future as support switched from production to environmental protection. A properly funded umbrella group like the CCW could build bridges between the two sides and replace conflict with conciliation.
Similar bodies in other countries, including English Nature and Scottish Natural Heritage, had not been subject to Draconian cuts.
He feared that Mr Redwoods plans would leave Welsh farmers more poorly served than those in England.