[Diggers350] Labour/Plaid Cymru destroy natural woods in Wales, corporates elbowing out locals, grabbing grazing land to ‘offset their carbon footprint’

Tony Gosling tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Wed Feb 16 21:18:53 GMT 2022

Zero Carbon Watch: Labour and Plaid Cymru 
destroying natural woods in Wales, selling off 
grazing to corporate interests to ‘offset their carbon footprint’


February 2022 
<https://tlio.org.uk/author/tony/>Tony Gosling 
a comment

Net Zero policies destroying communities: ‘Save 
our valley’: Villagers in Cwrt-y-Cadno fighting 
proposals to plant trees on agricultural land

Thursday 10 February 2022 Hannah Thomas, Rural Affairs Correspondent, ITV Wales

This time last year, tenant farmers Ian O’Connor 
and his wife Rhiannon were hoping to buy their 
first farm together in Cwrt-y-Cadno. Born and 
brought up in the heart of the Cothi Valley, they 
have a strong attachment to the area. The farm 
next door, Frongoch, was up for sale. They had 
two small boys and were looking to raise their young family there.

But they were outbid. Not by other farmers, but 
by an investor company called Foresight Ltd, 
which is based in the centre of London. They 
purchased the land with the intention of planting 
trees there and “offsetting” carbon emissions.

When the local community at Cwrt-y-Cadno 
discovered these proposals, there was widespread 
opposition. For generations it has been sheep 
farming country. And local farmers were dismayed 
that prime agricultural land was being taken to plant non-native conifer trees.

For their part, Foresight Ltd say they began to 
engage with people living near Cwrt-y-Cadno from 
the beginning. They told me: “A fundamental part 
of Foresight’s approach to forestry is to listen 
to and work closely with the local community. 
We’ve been doing this at Frongoch for the past 
few months, adjusting our plans to try to 
accommodate key concerns – for example, we have 
confirmed that we will not be planting any trees in the valley basin.”

As last year wore on, I was told by farmers 
across Wales about more land that was being 
bought up by big companies, such as major UK 
airlines, to plant thousands of trees and offset their carbon emissions.

But the turning point in Cwrt-y-Cadno came three 
weeks ago, when a petition was launched by the 
local community to “save the valley”. As I write, 
it has nearly sixty thousand signatures and 
lobbies Foresight Ltd to change their plans.
A petition was launched by the local community to “save the valley”.

I met those villagers who started that petition at the historic Cwrt
Methodist Chapel in the middle of the tiny rural 
hamlet. They were stood outside a building 
visited by former US President Jimmy Carter, and 
were looking down a valley labelled an “ancient 
area of exceptional beauty”. They spoke of how 
they did not want to see their community 
“irreversibly destroyed”. They acknowledge that 
there is a need to plant more trees, and that 
Wales must play its part in the global ffort to 
tackle climate change. But they also spoke of how 
they did not want to see young people displaced 
off the land, and forced to leave the area in 
order to find futures they can afford.

I then joined Ian O’Connor and his wife Rhiannon, 
who now have a third child – a baby boy born last 
month. In the middle of lambing, they told me 
about their disappointment that they could not buy Frongoch Farm.

Their biggest fear is that they will never be 
able to purchase a farm in Carmarthenshire and 
rear their three little boys close to home. But 
they say that Foresight Ltd have worked with them 
during the process and have no criticism of the company itself.

Their concerns rest with Welsh Government policy. 
The Welsh Government has a target of seeing 86 
million trees planted across Wales over the next 
nine years. Public money is available through its 
Glastir scheme to anyone wishing to plant trees 
on their land. Ian and Rhiannon believe that the 
Welsh Government is making it “enticing” for firms to hunt for farms in Wales.
The Welsh Government has a target of seeing 86 
million trees planted across Wales over the next nine years.

Yesterday, the Deputy Minister for Climate Change 
[and concealed self-immolation] Lee Waters, told 
ITV Cymru Wales that “the threat of climate 
change hasn’t gone away. Just because we are 
three months on from COP people seem to think 
that we are out of the woods and we are not.

In order to reach those targets of getting to net 
zero we have to do things differently, and one of 
the things that we have to do – according to the 
independent UK Climate Change Commission – is to 
change about 10% of the land we use in Wales away 
from sheep farming and towards planting mixed woodlands.”

When tackled about whether Welsh Government 
policy and funding makes it attractive for 
investors to buy up land here, Mr Waters said: 
“there’s also a role for other companies to come 
in and put that money to use in Wales. Because we 
will benefit from the carbon sequestration, we 
will benefit from the biodiversity, we will 
benefit from the timber that is created to create Welsh jobs and Welsh homes.”

But the National Farmers Union in Wales (NFU 
Cymru) does not believe we have got that balance 
between forestry and farming right yet. The 
director of NFU Cymru, John Mercer, lives in 
Cwrt-y-Cadno and his family roots run deep there. 
I asked him whether we needed to give more 
farmland up in Wales to tree planting.

He says that farmers are trying to do more, but 
want to integrate trees on parts of the farm 
where they cannot produce food. His argument is 
that the UK is just 60% self-sufficient in food, 
and his worry is that if this drops further, we 
will have to import more food from countries with 
lower climate change targets than British 
farmers. The NFU has an ambition to be carbon net zero by 2040.
The row over 265 acres in Cwrt-y-Cadno is set to rumble on.

This is far from just about farming, however. 
Environmental organisations have also lent their 
voices to the idea that the plan for Cwrt-y-Cadno 
is a controversial one. Clive Roberts from the 
West Wales Rivers Trust is an advocate for 
biodiversity in the Cothi Valley. He says that 
the River Cothi near Cwrt-y-Cadno is one of the 
few places left in Wales where salmon and sewin 
successfully spawn. He says that scientific 
evidence shows that planting too many conifer 
trees in a certain area can acidify waterways and kill off species of fish.

The row over 265 acres in Cwrt-y-Cadno will 
undoubtedly rumble on though. Foresight Ltd say 
that their “draft scheme for Frongoch has been 
sensitively designed to incorporate a diverse mix 
of tree species, to include open spaces for 
natural habitat, and to deliver both 
environmental benefits and a significant 
improvement in biodiversity levels. We recognise 
that this is a special valley and are working 
hard to ensure that our plans for it will ensure it remains so.”

Local people are working hard to protect that 
too. Because they say once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.
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