To consider the report of the Head of
The Chair welcomed Mr. Nicholas Alvin, the Project Officer, to the meeting.
Consideration was given to report of the Head of Community Services.
The Team Leader Natural Environment presented the report which updated Members on the ongoing regional South East Wales Resilient Uplands (SEWRU) project and the Council’s work in supporting delivery of the 3-year project (2018- 2021).
The South East Wales Resilient Uplands (SEWRU) was a collaborative project, involving Caerphilly, Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen Councils, Natural Resources Wales, Police, Fire and Rescue Services, Gwent Wildlife Trust and the Brecon Beacons National Park. Torfaen CBC was the project Lead for the collaboration, and the focus of the SEWRU was to deliver priority actions from the Landscape Institute award winning Natural Resource Management Plan for South-east Wales Uplands (NRMP) produced in 2015. Detailed delivery plans were attached at Appendix 2.
The Officer reported that to date the project had identified and completed several peatland restoration projects, produced common land management plans (including a detailed management plan for Mynydd Llanhilleth), restored many kilometres of commons boundary stock fencing, installed physical barriers to reduce landscape crime on commons, and managed important upland heathland to reduce fire risk and facilitate conservation grazing. SEWRU was currently working with Gwent Police and other partners to update the NRMP and produce upland-focussed landscape crime management plans for each common within the project.
A Member welcomed the report, and asked whether Manmoel was included in the common land management plan. He expressed concern regarding the on-going problems of off-road vehicles using the common to access an illegal bike track, and the detrimental impact on the protected landscape.
The Officer said he was aware of the issues with off-road vehicles and the bike track which was on private land outside the common. Work was done to try and secure the common against the vehicles, but unfortunately they continue to find ways to get through. Also the road leading to Manmoel village was open for public use so it was difficult to try and reduce their activity, as they were able to use the road to get to the bike track facility, the legality of which was under question.
Mr. Alvin explained that the funding arrangements was based on commons above 200m, so rather than rural wards the funding was targeted at essential upland areas of Gwent that are registered common land and peripheral areas around those, including Manmoel.
Councillor Lee Parsons thanked the Chair for extending invitation to the meeting and said he welcomed the report. He asked whether Welsh Government had given any indication of proposals for a wind farm at Mynydd Llanhilleth.
In response Mr. Alvin said he had not been consulted on any proposals to date, however, it would not impact on what the SEWRU was seeking to do, e.g. developing landscape management plans for every common land, including Mynydd Llanhilleth.
The Team Leader Natural Environment confirmed that any proposals for a wind farm would be subject to a landscape visual impact assessment and environmental impact. Renewal energy was a pressing issue for Welsh Government in its carbon neutral approach, however, he confirmed that he had not had sight of any application to date.
A Member thanked the Officers for the work undertaken on the commons, and also the commoners for their involvement and work to improve the areas.
A brief discussion ensued when the Officer explained that there was some rarity of species in Blaenau Gwent, particularly the Silurian Moth which was only found in the Brecon Beacons and one other site in Dorset. He said this was an indicator species, i.e. if the uplands were managed correctly the numbers should increase, however, failure to manage them properly could see the species lost altogether.
The Committee AGREED to recommend that the report be accepted and noted the activity taking place within the South East Wales Resilient Uplands Project and continue to support the collaborative working approach as programmed (Option 1).