We Asked, You Said, We Did

Below are some of the issues we have recently consulted on and their outcomes.

We asked

We asked for your comments on the Forest Resource Plan for the Welsh Government Woodland Estate in the Heads of the Valleys region. The Forest Resource Plan is a high level plan that determines the overall management of the woodlands, setting out the long term objectives for each woodland (ancient woodland restoration, native woodland management, or standard forestry management, for example), and the general approach to any restocking, such as with native broadleaf or coniferous species. But the plan does not go into the specific day to day management of the estate, this is provided by our Land Management and Forest Operations Team whose work the plan informs.

You said

Thank you to everyone who took the time to respond.

There was broad support for aims to restore and manage ancient semi natural woodland on the estate, improve biodiversity, and increase the area of native broadleaves within the woodlands.

Some responses were concerned about the situation at Arail Bank and the impact the larch is having on local residents.

Some responses were concerned about the impact of unauthorised bike trails on the woodlands. One asked about natural flood management solutions on the estate, and another proposed working closely with partners to improve biodiversity.

We did

We have taken the comments received on board and they have been shared with relevant teams within Natural Resources Wales. The level of interest in this FRP shows how much the woodlands are valued locally and by visitors for recreation and health and wellbeing which is something we want to support and encourage.

Arail Bank is a complicated woodland that has a number of issues that are impacting on its management. This includes access issues, landslip hazards, fissures, and disused mine workings. We are trying to identify a way forward for the management of Arail Bank but this will take some time.

We are working hard to balance the demands on the Welsh Government Woodland Estate and the three objectives as set out in the Woodlands for Wales: The Welsh Government’s Strategy for Woodlands and Trees (2018), that they provide benefits for communities, for biodiversity and the environment, and for the economy. We are also working hard to meet the challenges provided by diseases such as Phytophthora Ramorum, which has impacted larch, ash die back, and other diseases that are affecting the resilience of the woodlands.

We asked

We asked for your comments on the Forest Resource Plan for the Welsh Government Woodland Estate in the southern Wye Valley. The Forest Resource Plan is a high level plan that determines the overall management of the woodlands, setting out the long term objectives for each woodland (ancient woodland restoration, native woodland management, or standard forestry management, for example), and the general approach to any restocking, such as with native broadleaf or coniferous species. But the plan does not go into the specific day to day management of the estate, this is provided by our Land Management and Forest Operations Team whose work the plan informs.

You said

We had a high level of responses to this consultation showing how much people value the woodlands in the Wye Valley. Thank you to everyone who took the time to respond.

There was broad support for aims to restore and manage ancient semi natural woodland on the estate, improve biodiversity, and increase the amount of native broadleaves within the woodlands.

Some responses were concerned about water run-off and the impact of felling operations on this, and soil erosion, and wanting to make sure this is factored in and managed accordingly.

There was some dissatisfaction about the classification of unauthorised mountain biking on the Welsh Government Woodland Estate as anti-social behaviour in the same objective as fly tipping and illegal 4x4 use.

We did

We have taken the comments received on board and they have been shared with relevant teams within Natural Resources Wales. The level of interest in this FRP shows how much the woodlands are valued locally and by visitors for recreation and health and wellbeing which is something we want to support and encourage.

We realise putting mountain biking in the same sentence as fly tipping might not have been taken well, however this was focused on irresponsible trail building and use of mountain bikes that damage the woodland ecosystem, create conflicts with other woodland users, and prevents management activities, not mountain biking in general. We are keen to encourage responsible mountain biking where possible on the Welsh Government Woodland Estate. In future we will be clearer in our language when discussing such issues.

We had several questions concerning forestry activities and their impact on water runoff and soil erosion. Forestry activities follow best practice to minimise impacts on the local environment, and although can sometimes look unsightly, is carried out in line with the UK Forestry Standard and UK Woodland Assurance Scheme. The UK Forestry Standard provides guidance to ensure water run off is managed appropriately, which is followed during all our operations. We have to carry out felling operations in winter months when it is wetter to comply with protected species legislation, so we do not disturb or affect species such as dormice or birds during nesting season.

We are working hard to balance the demands on the Welsh Government Woodland Estate and the three objectives as set out in the Woodlands for Wales: The Welsh Government’s Strategy for Woodlands and Trees (2018), that they provide benefits for communities, for biodiversity and the environment, and for the economy. We are also working hard to meet the challenges provided by diseases such as Phytophthora Ramorum, which has impacted larch, ash die back, and other diseases that are affecting the resilience of the woodlands.

We asked

We asked for your comments on the Forest Resource Plan for the Welsh Government Woodland Estate in the region of the Lower Taff Valley and The Vale of Glamorgan. The Forest Resource Plan is a high level plan that determines the overall management of the woodlands, setting out the long term objectives for each woodland (ancient woodland restoration, native woodland management, or standard forestry management, for example), and the general approach to any restocking, such as with native broadleaf or coniferous species. But the plan does not go into the specific day to day management of the estate, this is provided by our Land Management and Forest Operations Team whose work the plan informs.

You said

We had a high level of responses to this consultation showing how much people value the woodlands in the area.

It was clear that there is a high level of use in some of the woodlands for recreation including walking and mountain biking, and many responses want to see this use supported more, although some responses said there was not enough detail about this in the plans, with no mention of public access.  There was also a perception this use could be negatively impacted by woodland management activities. However, there were also some responses that expressed concern about the level of mountain biking in some woodlands and the impact this could have on other users and the woodland environment.

There were comments expressing concern about perceived negative impacts of tree felling activity on the local environment and the communities near to the woodlands. There were also questions about the practical aspects of any felling, such as where the extraction routes will be, and disruption to local communities during operations.

There was broad support for aims to restore ancient semi natural woodland on the estate and improve biodiversity within the woodlands, and there were some responses that wanted more native trees and less conifer species. Some responses asked for more connectivity between the woodlands in the plan, and other woodlands nearby. Some requested a more gradual approach from conifers to broadleaves rather than clearfelling.

There was some dissatisfaction about the information provided as part of the consultation and the quality of the maps and how hard they were to understand, as well as the amount of detail on the day to day management of the woodland which does not come through in the documentation.

We did

We have taken the comments received on board and they have been shared with relevant teams within Natural Resources Wales. The level of interest in this FRP shows how much the woodlands are valued locally and by visitors for recreation and health and wellbeing which is something we want to support and encourage.

With regard to recreation on the Welsh Government Woodland Estate we are continuing to liaise with users of the woodlands to support and encourage more sustainable recreation for all users, and to reduce any potential conflicts, such as through the North Cardiff Woodlands project, and the North Cardiff Trails group.

Forestry activities follow best practice to minimise impacts on the local environment, and although can sometimes look unsightly, is carried out in line with the UK Forestry Standard and UK Woodland Assurance Scheme. Felling work is planned by a multidisciplinary team including conservation to ensure we adhere to the law and remain compliant with guidelines set out in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and within NRW guidance. Felling sites are continually monitored to ensure works are carried out sustainably and remain compliant and auditable to keep our accreditation intact. We are working to improve how we communicate with neighbours and communities when forestry operations are being planned and to communicate why we manage the woodlands in the ways we do, and will provide information, such as extraction routes, before work starts.

The approach taken in each woodland to restore native broadleaves depends on the current crop. If they are able to be thinned rather than clearfelled then that is our preferred option so that it is a gradual process. But if there is tree disease present, such as Phytopthora Ramorum, or if they have not been thinned previously and are now too old to do so safely and not risk wind blow, then clearfell is often the only option open to us to remove the conifers. But this is always carried out following the UK Forestry Standard guidance and carried out to impact the woodland as little as possible. Where there are important tree species, such as at Tair Onen, these will usually be retained during any cleafelling activity, as long as there is no danger of windblow from exposure after felling has happened.

We are working hard to balance the demands on the Welsh Government Woodland Estate and the three objectives as set out in the Woodlands for Wales: The Welsh Government’s Strategy for Woodlands and Trees (2018), that they provide benefits for communities, for biodiversity and the environment, and for the economy. We are also working hard to meet the challenges provided by diseases such as Phytophthora Ramoram, which has impacted larch, ash die back, and other diseases that are affecting the resilience of the woodlands, and the challenge posed by climate change and how this will affect woodlands.

There was a question about the categorisation of Ancient Woodland and how this can be restored. Ancient Woodland, as recorded on the Ancient Woodland Inventory, is woodland where there is evidence that the wood has been there since at least 1600, as evidenced through maps, and supported by indicator plant species. This can include conifer plantations where the previous wood was replanted with conifers and where there are indicator species that the native woodland can be restored, these are known as Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS). When we say the objectives will be to restore the ancient woodland it means to restore it back to native broadleaves or manage the woodland and encourage native flora.

We understand the dissatisfaction that some people have expressed about the level of information provided and the difficulty in understanding the maps and some of the terminology. We are taking on board this feedback and will be working to improve the level of information in the Forest Resource Plans and to make the mapping easier to understand in future consultations

We asked

We asked for your comments on the Forest Resource Plan for the Welsh Government Woodland Estate in the Rhondda Valley. The Forest Resource Plan is a high level plan that determines the overall management of the woodlands, setting out the long term objectives for each woodland (ancient woodland restoration, native woodland management, or standard forestry management, for example), and the general approach to any restocking, such as with native broadleaf or coniferous species. But the plan does not go into the specific day to day management of the estate, this is provided by our Land Management and Forest Operations Team whose work the plan informs.

You said

We had a high level of responses to this consultation showing how much people value the woodlands in the Rhondda.

It was clear that there is a high level of use in some of the woodlands for mountain biking and other recreational pursuits, and many responses want to see this use supported more. There was also a perception this use could be negatively impacted by woodland management activities. There was also dissatisfaction with the wording used in the document that listed unauthorised mountain biking as anti-social behaviour in the same context as fly tipping.

However, there were also some responses that expressed concern about the level of mountain biking in some woodlands and the impact this could have on other users and the woodland itself.

There were many comments expressing concern about perceived negative impacts our felling activity has on the local environment and the communities near to the woodlands.

There was broad support for aims to restore ancient semi natural woodland on the estate and improve biodiversity within the woodlands, and there were some responses that wanted more native trees and less conifer on the estate.

There was some dissatisfaction on the information provided as part of the consultation and the quality of the maps and how hard they were to understand.

We did

We have taken the comments received on board and they have been shared with relevant teams within Natural Resources Wales. The level of interest in this FRP shows how much the woodlands are valued locally and by visitors for recreation and health and wellbeing which is something we want to support and encourage.

We continue to work with The Bike Doctor at Barry Sidings Country Park to agree an approach to responsible mountain biking at Gelliwion that will support the mountain bikers as well as other users, and will allow woodland management activities to take place, and we are moving towards an agreeable solution for everyone.

We now realise putting mountain biking in the same sentence as fly tipping might not have been taken well, however this was focusing on irresponsible trail building and use of trails that damages the woodland ecosystem, puts other users in danger, and prevents management activities, not mountain biking in general. In future we will be clearer in our language when discussing such issues.

Forestry activities follow best practice to minimise impacts on the local environment, and although can sometimes look unsightly, is carried out in line with the UK Forestry Standard and UK Woodland Assurance Scheme. We do not deforest the land, as is often thought, but areas that have been felled will be left fallow for some time and then restocked or allowed to naturally regenerate with native species depending on the objective. Leaving the area fallow can have benefits to reduce pests and diseases, and the brash left can help to reduce run off and rot down to provide nutrients in the soil. We are working to improve how we communicate with neighbours and communities when forestry operations are being planned and to communicate why we manage the woodlands in the ways we do and the benefits it brings.

We are working hard to balance the demands on the Welsh Government Woodland Estate and the three objectives as set out in the Woodlands for Wales: The Welsh Government’s Strategy for Woodlands and Trees (2018), that they provide benefits for communities, for biodiversity and the environment, and for the economy. We are also working hard to meet the challenges provided by diseases such as Phytophthora Ramorum, which has impacted larch, ash die back, and other diseases that are affecting the resilience of the woodlands.

We understand the dissatisfaction that some people have expressed about the level of information provided and the difficulty in understanding the maps and some of the terminology. We are taking on board this feedback and will be working to improve the level of information in the Forest Resource Plans and to make the mapping easier to understand.

We asked

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is reviewing its Enforcement and Sanctions Policy (ESP), which will make how it tackles environmental crime in all its forms easier to understand and more accessible to the public.

Our current policy on Enforcement and Prosecution was approved and published in March 2013. We recently established an internal expert group, including legal representatives, to run a review of this policy and its associated guidance.

Our revised ESP does not change our approach to enforcement. Principally, we engage with operators, individuals, and businesses, to educate and enable compliance or prevent harm; to put the environment first and to integrate good environmental practices into normal working methods.

Our review of this policy and associated guidance considers legislative changes for our core purpose, our new organisational structures, clarity on the use of civil sanctions (where we have those powers) and accessibility requirements, for publishing as a series of webpages.

Following the conclusion of the public consultation exercise we will assess and publish all relevant and valid consultation responses.

Subject to approval by internal governance at Enforcement Subgroup and Regulatory Business Board, our revised Enforcement and Prosecution Policy will then be published on our website.

You said

We received 26 responses to the consultation from a wide range of people and companies including representatives of Angling clubs, rivers trusts, woodland trusts, a community councillor and community groups, Charites, The Farmers Union of Wales, RSPB Cymru, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and a number of Ltd Companies.

Overall, the respondents supported the new Enforcement and Sanctions Policy and wanted to see NRW take enforcement action against environmental crime, and in particular river pollution, illegal fishing, damage to nature and fly tipping.

Many of the responses were concerned with our incident attendance and response siting particular instances where they had first-hand knowledge or were dissatisfied with NRW actions in that individual case.

Some responders whilst critical of NRW acknowledged that NRW is faced with a resource shortage / lack of boots on ground and that there was little point in having a ESP without the staff or resource to implement it.

The comments raised about resource and incident response whilst not forming part of this consultation will be fed back to our regulatory business board and may be used in future discussions with WG.

We did

We intend to:

Publish the revised ESP

Review each response and provide a detailed report for our Regulatory business board

Share the responses with the relevant parts of the business i.e. Incident response

The following redacted document (annex 1) captures the themes of the responses we received in relation to this consultation.

We asked

We asked for your comments on the plans for the management of Crychan Forest over the next 10 years.

The Forest Resource Plan is the high level plan that determines the overall forest types (such as ancient woodland) and management prescriptions (such as continuous cover forestry) but does not go into the detail of the day to day management of the forest. This is provided by our Land Management and Forest Operations teams.

You said

From the consultation response it was clear that the infomation around the access and recreation provision was lacking in clarity and detail.

There were positive comments on the proposals for an increase in riparian and ancient woodland and the move to increase the area of forest under continous cover.

There were also positive comments on the provision of habitat for protected species.

The current access and recreation provision also generated many positive comments.

We did

We have prepared the following statement to provide additional detail and clarity around our provision of access and recreation in Crychan Forest. 

The Welsh Government  Woodland Estate (WGWE) is managed by Natural Resources Wales (NRW).  A significant proportion of the WGWE has been designated permissive access for walking, cycling and equestrian use and this includes Crychan forest.

Crychan forest contains 4 Car Parks, 5 waymarked Walking Trails  and 5 horse corals and also includes a network of public rights of ways including footpaths, bridleways and Unclassified roads. Both horse-riders and carriage drivers can make use of Crychan for riding under the terms of a Concordat between Natural Resources Wales and the British Horse Society (BHS). NRW are committed to retain this infrastructure for the continued recreational use of the forest.

NRW also work closely with the Crychan Forest Association who complete two trail inspections a year on a number of walking and horse riding routes in Crychan and Halfway.  They also promote the trails, the woodland and on occasions host events.

The forest roads within Crychan were constructed for the purpose of timber extraction and forestry operations that also provide permissive recreational access for walking, cycling and horse riding.  These forest roads are maintained prior to and following forestry operations  and provide wide and firm routes. These routes are suitable for horse riding and carriage driving. However, as these routes are within a working forest, certain locations may be closed off for safety reasons or during certain times of the year due to forestry operations. NRW therefore request that all users follow and obey any safety signage provided on site.

Any issues of anti social behaviour should be reported to our incident hotline (03000 65 3000) and any illegal activity to the hotline and/or the police via 101.