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Outcry over NRW plans ‘led to consultation’

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Myherin: Not suitable for a leased shoot (Pic. geograph.org.uk)

AN ANIMAL rights organisation has claimed that controversy over NRW plans to to lease land it owns in Ceredigion to commercial shoots for game birds has led to a public consultation over the future of shooting rights on the body’s land. 

NRW leases five current areas of public land to commercial game shoots and those leases were not entered into by NRW, but by its predecessor bodies (Countryside Council for Wales, Environment Agency Wales and the Forestry Commission Wales). However, in addition to the five leases it inherited, NRW has sought to lease two additional sites for game shooting in Ceredigion: in the Tarenig and Myherin forests near Devil’s Bridge.

The birds involved would be pheasants, farmed elsewhere on a rear and release system for sports shooting.

Leaked internal NRW documents, including memoranda, criticise the proposed lease of Myherin Forest.

Nick Young, NRW Conservation Manager, wrote: “My considered opinion is that Myherin is not suitable for a leased shoot as things stand, and that any intention to take this proposal forward should require wider NRW and partner body consultation and an Ecosystem Appraisal of the likely effects of these shooting lease proposals.”

Peter van-Velzen, Programme Manager, said: “In my view the financial, employment and environmental impacts to harvesting by letting shooting rights here, will far outweigh the monetary income generated by a let. I note that no financial comparison has been carried out as part of this exercise.”

Nick Young also challenged a claim that the land earmarked for shooting was in ‘inconsistent use’ by the public. He pointed to Nantsyddion Bothy, which ‘is currently leased/loaned to the Mountain Bothies Association and is well used by walkers and well maintained at no cost to NRW. It forms part of a chain of bothies through Wales and often used in conjunction with Nant Rhys in Tarenig. Both Nant Rhys and Nantsyddion are well used’.

‘Does NRW really want the negative publicity of evicting MBA in favour of creating a shooting lodge?’

Animal Aid claims that NRW kept lease agreements ‘secret’ from the public and has launched a petition calling for ‘an end to ‘sport shooting’ on public land’. The text of the petition goes on to claim that ‘a properly conducted, independent and stakeholder-inclusive review should come to the conclusion that shooting should be banned on Welsh public land’.

The organisation also states that: “To ensure high stocks of pheasants on shoot days, NRW’s shoot tenants eliminate foxes, stoats, weasels, corvids and rodents.”

Last week, The Herald featured a story regarding one private shoot landowner’s campaign against the reintroduction of pine martens to the woodlands of Mid and West Wales.

A spokesperson for the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) explained to The Herald that BASC data does not separate out NRW land from other land upon which shoots take place in Wales.

They went on to say: “Shooting in Wales supports almost 2,500 full time jobs throughout the supply chain. This equates to £64m per year spent in Wales by shoot providers and participants annually. Shooting in Wales has been estimated to provide Gross Value Added of £75 million to the UK economy and can be an important source of income outside of traditional tourism periods. BASC, therefore, believes that shooting makes a significant contribution to the public estate.”

NRW were unable to provide The Herald with a start date for the consultation, as it is still finalising the arrangements, but the work will be finished in 2017.

Chris Tucker, Forestry Advisor for Natural Resources Wales who is leading the review, said: “One of our roles is to make the most of the land we manage on behalf of Welsh Government to benefit people, economy and the environment in Wales.

“Part of this work is the shooting rights we lease to third parties which have detailed plans to prevent harm to wildlife and the environment.

“We are carrying out a formal review of our policy on shooting on the land we manage, including activities by third parties, and this will include a consultation with the public to get their views.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson told us: “Natural Resources Wales is currently carrying out a review of its policy on shooting on NRW owned and managed land. The Welsh Government will be consulted during the review to ensure the review itself addresses the complaints received about animal welfare.”

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Elin Jones backs calls for business rates holiday extension for independent businesses

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CEREDIGION’S Member of the Senedd, Elin Jones, has backed calls by the British Independent Retail Association for the extension of the current rates holiday for non-essential businesses in 2021/22.

Many local independent businesses have been closed for the best part of a year, and many will be in a more precarious situation now than when the initial rates holiday was announced last year. Many businesses will be looking forward to the easing of restrictions over the next few months, but Elin Jones warned that many would benefit from the continued business rates holiday.

Elin Jones said:

“Every effort must be made to secure the future of independent businesses in Ceredigion. They are such an important feature of life in Ceredigion, both as employers, and as a draw for people to our towns and villages.

“Normal trading will eventually resume, and these businesses will be able to flourish again, but local businesses owners know that this cannot be rushed. Therefore we must continue to sustain our businesses until they are once again back on an even keel.

“It will take a while for footfall to resume, and extending the business rates holiday is one way to help in this time of need.”

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MP makes Budget case for support for self-employed and small businesses in Ceredigion

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BEN LAKE MP has called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend the government’s financial support package for businesses and self-employed workers in next week’s Budget as many struggle to stay afloat during continued lockdown restrictions. 

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak is to set out the UK Government’s budget on Wednesday 3 March, almost a year since the last Budget on 11 March 2020. 

To help businesses and our local high streets over coming months, the Ceredigion MP has called on the Chancellor to extend the lowered rate of VAT at 5% for hospitality and tourism for a year to March 2022 and to extend the business rates relief package. 

Mr Lake also called on the Chancellor to retain the furlough scheme for the duration of pandemic restrictions, as recent figures show more than 178,000* in Wales are still receiving government help from the CJRS. He also urged the Chancellor to expand the existing eligibility criteria for the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme in order to offer some help to the many individuals who have not received a penny in Government support thus far. 

Ben Lake MP said: “For many businesses and self-employed workers, the financial support government has offered over the last 12 months has been a lifeline. Now, as we are finally starting to see light at the end of the lockdown tunnel, we cannot remove this lifeline prematurely. Extending this help for a little longer, and expanding the criteria to help those that have been excluded thus far, would offer small businesses the support they require to ‘bounce back’ from the pandemic.” 

Many businesses who are still not open due to lockdown measures are also now expected to start repaying their Bounce Back Loans. This is despite their situation largely remaining unchanged since they took out the loan, or in some unfortunate instances, worsened as they have not yet been able to trade.  

UKHospitality has estimated that the hospitality sector lost around £72 billion in sales in 2020 and faces, frankly, a debt mountain, including £4.2 billion in state-backed loans.  

Mr Lake said:  “It is important that businesses that took out bounce back loans and CBILS are required to pay only when they are in a position to do so – once they have ‘bounced back’ from the pandemic. Affording such a level of flexibility, and thus preventing avoidable business failures, would protect jobs, the taxpayer’s investment in the recovery, and the integrity of our financial system.

“We remain in the early stages of a vaccine-led recovery, and it is likely that we will have some form of restrictions for many months to come. Having done so much to protect the economy and the workforce, we must not withdraw support prematurely, as to do so would risk throwing away the investment taxpayers have made in the last year, and potentially our economic recovery.” 

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Covid-19 vaccination venues and timeline announced for everyone locally over 50

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EVERY person in JCVI priority groups 5 to 9 will be offered a COVID-19 vaccination by 18 April, Hywel Dda University Health Board has confirmed.

While the health board’s vaccination programme has the capacity to offer a vaccine to everyone in groups 5 to 9 by the original target date of 4 April, the delivery plan has had to be adjusted based on confirmed vaccine deliveries.

Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire residents in priority groups 5 to 9 can expect to receive their vaccine as follows:

  • Group 5, people aged 65 – 69 years – delivered by GP practices between 15 February and 12 March
  • Group 6, people aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions and unpaid carers – delivered by GP practices between 22 February and 4 April
  • Group 7, people aged 60 – 64 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 8 March
  • Group 8, people aged 55 – 59 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 22 March
  • Group 9, people aged 50 – 54 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 5 April

The health board currently has mass vaccination centres located in Aberystwyth, Cardigan, Haverfordwest, Tenby, Carmarthen and Llanelli.

Group 6 is significantly the largest cohort to be vaccinated to date and we understand that many in this group will be anxious to receive a vaccine. Please do not contact your GP or the health board to ask about your appointment, you will be contacted directly when it is your turn and we thank you for your patience.

People in groups 7, 8 and 9 will receive a letter with an appointment date and time. Please arrive as close to your appointment time as possible. The letter will include a phone number to contact the health board should you need to rearrange or cancel your appointment but please make every effort to keep your allocated appointment time.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda UHB, said: “While  our programme has had to slow  due to supplies, we want to reassure everyone in groups 5 to 9 that our amazing teams of vaccinators and GP practices have the capability and flexibility to deliver our vaccine supplies as they arrive into the region.

“Vaccine supplies will start to increase again from mid-March, and we are confident that everyone living in our three counties in the top 9 priority groups will be offered a vaccine by mid-April.

“In Hywel Dda we have an older population compared to some other health boards and so over 50% of our adult population will have been offered a vaccine by milestone 2.

“To be able to say that as we approach the anniversary of the first national lockdown is nothing short of extraordinary.

“And again, I must say thank you to everyone living in our three counties who continue to come forward in substantial numbers for the vaccine. Uptake remains remarkably high and we hope to see this continue through groups 5 to 9 and into group 10.”

People are asked, wherever possible, to use their own private transport to attend an appointment. Lifts can be accepted from someone in their household or support bubble, but not from anyone else due to the risk of transmission of the virus.

The health board has put in place transport support for anyone who may have difficulty attending their vaccination appointment. If you have no other means of travel, please contact the health board on 0300 303 8322 and we will be happy to assist.

Everyone in priority groups 1 to 4 should have received an offer of a vaccination. If you have not been contacted, or have changed your mind, please contact your GP at the earliest opportunity. No one will be left behind.

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