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Pembrokeshire farmers’ fears over WG scheme

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River Cleddau: 2,000 farms affected

River Cleddau: 2,000 farms affected

WELSH GOVERNMENT plans to introduce restrictions on the activities that farmers can carry out on their land and designated times of the year has been met with scepticism and concern by Pembrokeshire’s farmers.

The Welsh Government has introduced a consultation on its scheme to designate the Haven Waterway and two Cleddaus as a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ). Farmers claim that the move will increase the costs of production, threaten farms’ viability, and have an adverse effect on the Pembrokeshire Early crop.

WHAT IS AN NVZ?

An NVZ designation places a series of restrictions on farmers’ ability to use certain types of fertiliser on their land at prescribed times of the year. The aim is to reduce the effect that run off from agricultural land has on the environment.

The effects of nitrate pollution on the aquatic environment can be significant. High nitrate concentrations can cause a deterioration in water quality and disturb the ecosystems of rivers and other watercourses. Over enrichment of water can lead to a depletion of oxygen levels leading to a loss of marine life and causes increased toxic and non-toxic algal blooms, which make the situation worse by reducing water transparency. Nitrate pollution can reduce not only the diversity of plant life but also damage fish and shellfish stocks, as the algae consume the available oxygen suffocating other life.

In the worst case scenario, anaerobic (oxygen-starved) conditions cause toxic bacteria to thrive and can create ‘dead zones’.

In order to tackle the threat posed by nitrate pollution, in 1991 the European Union adopted rules governing nitrate pollution and sought to regulate the extent of nitrate pollution entering the environment.

UKIP OPPOSES MOVE

Speaking to The Herald in August, UKIP Wales leader Neil Hamilton told us: “With the imminence of Brexit, it is absurd for the Welsh Government to go ahead with consultations on potential NVZs under the EU Nitrates Directive.

“If implemented, these new zones will adversely affect about 25% of the Welsh dairy herd and 50% of the Welsh potato crop. I will oppose strongly any move by the Welsh Government to impose these zones.

“Farmers don’t need to be dictated to. They know what is best for their land and their crops and they should be allowed to make their own decisions based on personal knowledge of their land and weather conditions.”

Notwithstanding Mr Hamilton’s words, the Welsh Government has decided that now is the time – with Article 50, triggering the UK’s departure/divorce from the EU, due to be activated next March at the latest – to embark upon a round of consultations about the imposition of a regulatory burden based on EU law upon farmers already uncertain about the effect of Brexit upon their incomes.

The rationale underpinning the consultation is based on the environmental principles underpinning the original policy. However, the potential impact of agriculture around the Haven Waterway is significant.

‘EXTREMELY COSTLY’

Pembrokeshire NFU Cymru County Chairman, Walter Simon, said: “Up to 2,000 farmers in in the western and eastern Cleddau river catchments and the Milford Haven estuary could face strict limitations on the use of nitrates on their farms and also face the challenge of a whole host of tough new rules due to potential plans from Welsh Government to extend Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZ) in Wales.

“The Welsh Government are now consulting on proposals that have the potential to bring in 25% of all the land in Wales which is used for milk production and also half of the area that is used to grow potatoes in Wales under a new NVZ designation.”

Mr Simon explained his members’ concerns: “The potential new rules include strict limitations and restrictions on the amount of livestock manure, slurry and fertiliser farmers can spread on their land, particularly during the autumn and winter months and, in tandem with this, there would be very strict requirements on farmers to keep detailed records.

“Dairy and beef farmers would also be required to have storage facilities for slurry and manure for five months from October to March. This is likely to be extremely costly for farmers to implement at a time when they’re receiving very low prices in the market for their products.”

He concluded by questioning the basis upon which the Welsh Government was advancing the plans at this time: “In the context of the EU Referendum decision, it’s very questionable if the implementation of this EU directive should be taken forward. However, if Welsh Government choose to implement this then NFU Cymru is calling on them to base any new NVZ areas on sound scientific evidence. We will scrutinise the evidence in great detail and we’re willing to challenge government plans unless they are robust and stand up to scrutiny.”

‘LONG TERM DAMAGE’ CLAIM

Responding for the Welsh Conservatives, Paul Davies AM warned that excessive regulations could do ‘long term damage’ to the farming industry.

The Conservatives’ Rural Affairs spokesperson said: “Farmers across Wales will be rightly concerned about the Welsh Government’s proposed new Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZ) designations.

“The regulatory burden will do nothing to attract people to farming and the costs attached to these proposals will put a heavy burden on Welsh farmers, at a time when the Welsh Government should be doing more to support our rural economy.

“It seems that both options would unnecessarily and unreasonably affect Welsh farmers.

“That’s why it’s important that a strong message is sent to the Welsh Government and I strongly urge farmers from all parts of the country to respond to this consultation and make sure their voices are heard.”

WG APPROACH LACKS EVIDENCE

FUW Senior Policy Officer Dr Hazel Wright, who has been representing the Union in the review process, said: ‘‘The FUW has been involved in the NVZ review and has made successful representations on several designations, which resulted in their removal from the discrete areas option of the consultation.

“However, the number of proposed new designations remain a concern and the FUW continues to reiterate the operational and financial impacts those designations would have upon farms that reside within an NVZ area. Given such costs, there must be full justification for any proposed increases in designation.”

Two options outlined in the consultation include the continuation of the discrete approach to designation or the designation of the whole of Wales as a NVZ. A continuation of the discrete approach would see an increase in the amount of NVZ designations in Wales rise from 2.4% to 8%. This would mean significant changes to NVZ designation in counties such as Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Anglesey.

“The FUW remains resolutely against the option to apply the action programme throughout the whole of Wales as this would require all landowners to comply with the NVZ action programme measures.

“There is a distinct lack of evidence for a whole territory approach and the difficulties and costs associated with regulatory compliance for farms whose land does not drain into nitrate polluted waters, makes this option both unwarranted and unreasonably excessive,” added Dr Wright.

2,000 FARMS COULD BE AFFECTED

Mid and West AM, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Climate Change and Rural Affairs, Simon Thomas said: “Plaid Cymru understands that up to potentially 2,000 farms that border on the Cleddau tributaries and the Cleddau estuary area would be affected. These farmers would face the need to make huge investments at a difficult time, for example, in slurry storage.

“We have called upon the Welsh Government to provide those farmers with support to meet the requirements without jeopardising their businesses.

“Natural Resources Wales would be tasked with regulating the NVZs. The organisation has faced cuts in the last Assembly Term. We have called upon the Welsh Government to ensure that NRW has the resources it needs to carry out its duties. As much as possible, both NRW and the Labour Welsh Government should work to achieve the aims of the NVZ through voluntary means and must also examine other potential factors outside of farming.”

NFU Cymru is encouraging affected farmers within the county to get involved with the consultation process. A meeting will be held on Thursday (Oct 13) at The Pavilion, Pembrokeshire Showground, Withybush, Haverfordwest, starting at 7:30pm. Access to The Pavilion for the meeting is via Gate 3, which is 200m past the main entrance to the Showground.

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Pembrokeshire Leisure welcomes back school swimming

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PEMBROKESHIRE Leisure is welcoming back school swimming lessons around the county for the first time since March 2020.

Swimmers from over 20 schools will be attending in their class bubbles to enjoy learning vital water competency skills in Pembrokeshire Leisure’s six swimming pools.

In a county which is surrounded by beautiful beaches and coastline, being safe in and around water is a potentially life-saving skill.

The programme of school swimming lessons helps to achieve the Welsh national priority that every child is a swimmer by the time they leave primary school.

The National Curriculum requirement which has been designed in line with this is that every key stage 2 child should be able to:

  • Swim 25 metres with clothes on (shorts and t-shirt), then tread water for 30 seconds and demonstrate an action for getting help and move into the Heat Escape Lessening Position (H.E.L.P)
  • Demonstrate a shout and signal action to attract attention.

The first school to return was Ysgol Glannau Gwaun at Fishguard Leisure Centre and there are now 20 primary schools which will be attending swimming lessons around Pembrokeshire.

On Monday 14 th June, Coastlands County Primary School attended and their Head Teacher Sonja Groves said: “We are delighted to finally get back to swimming after such a long time away. The children were so happy to be back in the water learning and enjoying. Swimming is a vital life skill which helps to keep the children of Pembrokeshire safe in and around all types of water.”

Leisure Services Manager Gary Nicholas said: “It is fantastic to be able to safely welcome back school swimming to our facilities. Primary school aged children have missed over a years’ worth of swimming lessons and Pembrokeshire Leisure are committed to supporting the aim of every child a swimmer by age 11.

“We will continue to do this by delivering quality school swimming lessons following the Swim Wales Nofio Ysgol programme, using the Free Swimming Initiative to provide targeted sessions for the most deprived swimmers and by continuing to provide swimming lessons at all sites in our Learn to Swim programme.”

For more information about how you can book your child swimming lessons and support their journey to becoming a competent swimmer, contact your local leisure centre.

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Landmarc flies the flag at local training camp to celebrate Armed Forces Week

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TO CELEBRATE Armed Forces Week 2021 and the contribution made by local military personnel, Landmarc Support Services (Landmarc) has raised the Armed Forces Day flag at Castlemartin Training Area in Pembrokeshire.

Following an unprecedented year for the UK’s troops as they responded to the challenges raised by the pandemic, Landmarc, which manages the UK Defence Training Estate in partnership with Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), wanted to extend an extra special thank you, by flying the official Armed Forces Day flag at military training estates across the UK, including local camp, Castlemartin.

Landmarc employees were joined by Armed Forces personnel and staff from DIO to witness the raising of the flag, where it will fly proudly until Armed Forces Week comes to a close on the 28th of June.

This Armed Forces Week, Landmarc has pledged its support and sponsorship of Team Emotive in its mission to complete one of the world’s most difficult ocean rowing challenges – the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge – all in the name of raising money for mental health charity, Veterans at Ease.

Made up of four Armed Forces veterans, including one Landmarc employee, Team Emotive is preparing to travel 3,000 miles from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Antigua. Rowing two hours on, two hours off for forty days, this challenge will push the team to its limits both physically and mentally. 23 rd June 2021

In addition, Landmarc has also announced its official partnership with the Armed Forces charity, SSAFA, working together to support veterans as they transition into civilian life.

Mark Neill, Managing Director at Landmarc, comments: “Each year, every one of us at Landmarc gives thanks to our troops during this special week. As part of the 25 per cent of veterans and reservists that make up Landmarc’s workforce, I know first- hand how important this event is for morale within the Forces community.

“It’s always fantastic to see so many people and organisations come together each year for Armed Forces Week, but the events of the last fifteen months have heightened our gratitude. The efforts from our servicemen and women have been immense and impossible to ignore in the nation’s fight against COVID-19; with our own staff working alongside the military to support the demands of the training estate as it hosts troops from across the country.”

For more information on Landmarc Support Services, please visit www.landmarcsolutions.com.

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Endurance runner tackles Pembrokeshire Coast

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ENDURANCE runner Sean Conway has successfully completed his epic series of marathons in the UK’s National Parks.

On Thursday, June 17, Sean tackled the Pembrokeshire coast, running from Newport to Dinas Head and back, fuelled by sports nutrition brand ‘Grenade’.

Sean, who is from North Wales, has ran the length of Britain before but says this was the longest stretch of days where he has had to constantly do a marathon every day.

Speaking of his run in Newport, Sean said: “It was so hilly. Honestly, the weather was amazing. It wasn’t too hot and there were some nice views along the way. At Dinas Head, it was amazing looking down at the lagoons and there are some amazing rock formations.”

He took six hours to complete his marathon but there was little time for recovery as he moved on to his final run in Snowdonia the day after.

“This was my second-last marathon so my body was feeling pretty battered and I’ve had to do it fully self-supported so I was doing one run out then back to the car and then out again”, Sean added.

“With covid we’ve all been staying at home more so I wanted to show off how amazing the National Parks are.

“There will be more of us visiting as restrictions are eased but we don’t want to ruin it by being silly.”

Sean was provided with his nutrition for the runs by Grenade and he said he ‘would not have been able to survive without them’.

In the morning he would have an energy drink which contained vitamins and electrolites and he would also mix this in with his water for some of his runs.

Sean would also have protein bars to give him an extra boost as he tried to keep on top of his protein intake.

“Pembrokeshire was so scenic. When I announced the runs this was the run that stood out online and I was really looking forward to doing it. We’ll definitely be coming back soon” Sean concluded.

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