I set out my determination to further protect the internationally-important Gwent Levels as I visited the site.
I visited the Sites of Special Scientific Interest which make up the Gwent Levels the day after the Senedd declared a nature emergency.
The Levels are one of the largest surviving areas of ancient grazing marsh and reen(drainage ditch) systems in Britain and the largest of its kind in Wales but these features have been under threat from development and pollution.
Restoring nature and mitigating the impact of climate change are top priorities for this government. We have already demonstrated this by our decision not to go ahead with the M4 Relief Road, which would have meant developing on part of the Gwent Levels and we are continuing to look for further ways to protect this important landscape.
The Gwent Levels are vitally important – not just to this part of South Wales – but worldwide. We will work to protect them.
This work includes looking at how the land acquired as part of the M4 project could be used to support the enhancement of the Gwent Levels.
The group set up by the Welsh Government and chaired by Newport East MS John Griffiths to consider the management and protection of the Gwent Levels is a powerful model for how action in areas like the Gwent Levels can be taken forward jointly by communities and stakeholders.
The group, which includes representation from the Welsh Government, Natural Resources Wales, local government, environmental NGOs and other stakeholders is developing a strategic action plan, which will look at:
- Ensuring the work the Living Levels Partnership is currently doing on habitat restoration, land owner and public engagement through an RSPB and Gwent Wildlife Trust lead Heritage Lottery funded project is continued.
- New and strengthened planning guidance to better enable the right developments in the right place and to avoid further unacceptable biodiversity and landscape impacts on the Gwent Levels.
- Renewing and increasing the coverage of land management agreements which are a key tool to enable land owners and managers to carry out important habitat management work to maintain and enhance the biodiversity features of SSSIs.
As part of our heightened response to the climate change and nature emergencies I am keen to ensure that areas like the Gwent Levels are better protected and managed for the future. This approach will safeguard Wales’ rich natural heritage for present and future generations.