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Timber industry have ‘no confidence’ in NRW

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IN AN unprecedented move ten of Wales’ major timber processors have formally notified the Welsh Government they have no confidence in Natural Resources Wales’ (NRW) management of its commercial forestry.

The companies expressing concern include local firms Teifi Timber Projects Ltd and James Davies (Abercych) Ltd.

In a leaked letter, the companies claim that NRW mismanagement of its forestry estate risks 12,000 jobs in the Welsh rural economy; £100m of new investment; Welsh Government revenues; mill closures; and Welsh processing becoming uncompetitive.

The problem is particularly acute as NRW forestry is the principal supplier of the Welsh wood processing industry, providing over 50% of raw material to the companies.

Their principal request is the removal of commercial forestry management from NRW.

NRW ACTIONS INEXPLICABLE

Late last year, a key Assembly Committee concluded that incompetence alone could not explain the actions of NRW in the awarding of a series of multi-million pounds timber contracts to a single logging company, that led to the qualification of NRW’s accounts qualified for three consecutive years.

The Committee stressed it didn’t have enough evidence to reach a full conclusion but said it struggled to comprehend how an organisation led by highly experienced, knowledgeable and skilled individuals could repeatedly make the same mistakes despite previous warnings both by the Assembly and the Wales Audit Office (WAO).

NRW awarded more contracts to the same company without a tendering process even AFTER it was warned off by the WAO.

David Sulman, Executive Director of the UK Forest Products Association told the Committee: “I certainly wouldn’t call these actions mistakes or oversights, as has been claimed. And it seems to us that these actions were premeditated, deliberate, and made in the full knowledge of the facts and the existence of long-standing and well-understood official procedures around timber marketing.

“Talking to people in the industry, some might even go so far as to say that, in view of the very serious concerns that the Auditor General and his staff—and, indeed, this committee had expressed about NRW’s behaviour, their action might amount to almost being contemptuous.”

For Welsh Conservatives enough is enough.

Shadow Environment and Rural Affairs Secretary, Andrew RT Davies AM, called for NRW to be scrapped and replaced by two separate bodies; one handling the regulatory duties undertaken by the organisation and the other its commercial aspects.

The scandal has claimed the scalps of former-NRW Chair, Diane McCrea and former Chief Executive Emyr Roberts.

PLAID WANTS INDEPENDENT REVIEW

Responding to the letter, Llyr Gruffydd AM Plaid Cymru shadow minister for environment and rural affairs said: “This letter is a significant development in the ongoing issues surrounding Natural Resources Wales’ handling of its responsibilities over forestry in Wales.

“For the sector to state that it has lost confidence in NRW’s ability to deliver a commercially viable and sustainable service should force the government to consider looking again at whether NRW is the best vehicle to deliver some of these services.

“I am therefore calling on the Welsh Government to establish an independent review to ascertain whether it is still appropriate for NRW to continue to manage the commercial forest estate in Wales. If the inquiry finds that a change is needed then it should offer alternative models for the government to consider. If it concludes NRW is the appropriate body then it must make clear recommendations as to how to improve relations with the sector.”

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “We do not comment on leaked correspondence.”

Clare Pillman, chief executive of Natural Resources Wales, said: “We fully accept that we have had some significant issues in our commercial forestry operations.

“We are taking these very seriously and have left no stone unturned in getting to the bottom of these issues, which is why we commissioned independent experts to carry out a thorough review, which will conclude very soon.

“Our relationship with our forestry partners is very important to us and we will be meeting with them in the near future to discuss our plans for improvements.”

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Spate of overnight burglaries in Clarach, Bow Street and Ponterwyd

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POLICE are investigating a spate of burglaries overnight in Clarach, Bow Street and Ponterwyd.

A number of burglaries have been reported, with entry forced to businesses and CCTV cameras damaged or removed.

In Bow Street, entry was forced into an agricultural merchants, where items were taken; and CCTV was removed from a business.

Two vehicles – a VW Passat – registration plate CU16 OAL – and an Audi – registration YT09 TWL – were also reported stolen from a garage in the village.

A VW Crafter – registration plate GM16OTP, along with tools and equipment were stolen from a business in Ponterwyd.

Four businesses at Nantallan Business Park were targeted:

Bikes and steamers were reported stolen from one, a generator and two boxes containing LED lighting from another, a Mitsubishi L200 flatbed truck taken from the third, and tools stolen from a fourth.

Police are treating the incidents as linked, and would like to speak to anyone with information or who witnessed any suspicious behaviour in the Clarach and Bow Street areas.

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Police confirm Ellie Bryan, 18, died in collision

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE can confirm the woman who tragically died following a collision at Commins Coch was Ellie Bryan, from Aberystwyth.
The 18-year-old was a passenger in a Vauxhall Astra which was involved in a collision at around 10pm on Saturday, November 16.
Her family has released the following statement: “We are distraught by our loss of Ellie. She will be missed by us all.
“Ellie was a loving daughter, sister and granddaughter.
“We would like to thank everyone for their support at this devastating time.
“We would appreciate having time to grieve in privacy.”
Police continue to appeal for witnesses or anyone with information about the collision to contact the Serious Collision Investigation Unit.
You can report information online at: http://bit.ly/dppReportOnline, by email at: contactcentre@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk or by calling 101.
If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Quote reference: DP-20191116-353.

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18-year-old girl arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving

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POLICE have said they have arrested a driver in connection with a fatal collision which took place at Commins Coch on Saturday (Nov 16).

An 18-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving, and has been released on bail pending further enquiries.

The collision occurred on the A487 at around 10pm, and involved two vehicles.

Enquiries have revealed the involvement of a third car and yesterday the driver of this vehicle was arrested.

An 18-year-old woman – a passenger in a Vauxhall Astra – sadly died from injuries sustained in the incident. Her family is being supported by specialist officers.

The driver of the Astra remains in hospital in a critical condition.

Anyone travelling along this stretch of road at the time of the collision who had dash cam footage, or saw the collision, is asked to contact the Serious Collision Investigation Unit.

You can report information online at: http://bit.ly/dppReportOnline, by email at: contactcentre@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk or by calling 101.

If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Quote reference: DP-20191116-353

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