Single body to manage rural issues in Wales

A proposal for a single body to manage natural resources across Wales is to go ahead after support for the plan emerged during a four-month consultation.

The Countryside Council for Wales, Environment Agency Wales and the Forestry Commission for Wales will amalgamate, announced Wales’ environment minister, John Griffiths, resulting in gross savings of up to £158m over a 10-year period.

Mr Griffiths said the “large majority” of the 308 individuals and organisations who took part in the Welsh Government public consultation had responded positively.

Consultation respondents had supported the idea that a single body would offer one single point of contact, thereby improving the level of service.

There was also support for the concept of a body that would deliver the best combination of social, environmental and economic benefits.

Mr Griffiths described the natural environment as crucial to Wales, with benefits derived from the natural world contributing £8.8bn worth of goods and services to the economy every year. They also form 9% of Welsh GDP and equate to one in six jobs.

“The consultation responses show there is broad consensus that our decision to replace three bodies with one is the right one,” said the minister. “They demonstrate wide-ranging support for the principle of well-integrated natural resource management through the creation of a single body.”

He admitted there were challenges to be overcome, but he believed this change would help make Wales’ countryside better for communities, the environment and the economy.

The single body is due to be established on 1 April 2013. The Welsh Government will shortly advertise for a chief executive and chairperson for the organisation.

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