Hamish Osborn and Fran Rolfe

Thu 14th Feb


Green Swansea.gif

Hamish Osborn & Fran Rolfe (Natural Resources Wales / Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru)

Sustainability / Cynaladwyedd

Thursday 14 February / Iau 14 Chwefror   1:00pm

Greening Swansea, 2

Four Thursday lunchtime talks about different aspects of protecting and improving Swansea’s natural environment

 Gwyrddio Abertawe, 2

Pedwar cyflwyniad amser cinio dydd Iau am agweddau gwahanol ar warchod a gwella amgylchedd naturiol Abertawe

On 14 February Hamish Osborne and Fran Rolfe of Natural Resources Wales explained the work of NRW in the Swansea area.

Hamish explained that NRW is the Welsh Government’s environment body, created on 1 April 2013 from the merger of the former Countryside Council for Wales, Environment Agency Wales and the Forestry Commission in Wales.  NRW has a multi-skilled workforce of 1,700 staff and an annual budget of £180 million.  Its role is ‘to pursue the sustainable management of natural resources’.  In practice this includes being:

o   an incident manager – from flooding and pollution, to plant diseases and tyre fires

o   a statutory consultee on planning applications – from tidal lagoons, to windfarms, to housing proposals

o   an operator – including flood defences, a laboratory, visitor centres and an incident control room

o   a land manager of 7% of Wales, mostly woodland.  Local examples of places it owns and manages are the Natural Nature Reserves at Oxwich and Crymlyn Bog

o   a provider of outdoor recreation, such as the Tryweryn White Water Centre

o   a permitting and licensing authority – from doormice to marine operations

o   an environmental regulator and enforcer – from sewage treatment to fishing nets

o   a designator of Sites of Special Scientific Interest, National Nature Reserves and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

o   an evidence gatherer – so that decisions are based on sound data, for example the health of cockles in Burry Inlet.

NRW staff conduct these roles within the global context of rapid loss of genetic diversity, nutrient management and air pollution.  They produce a State of the natural resources report for the Welsh Government, and in response the Welsh Government sets the natural resources policy.  NRW responds nationally via its Vital nature plan, which aims to secure long-term improvements in Wales’s habitats and wildlife. 

Locally NRW responds via six Area Statements covering the land of Wales plus one for the marine area.  These identify the management actions to sustain local natural resources. Some of the examples Hamish mentioned were:

o   At Overton Mere NRW is working with The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales to reinstate grazing to enhance biodiversity

o   At Burry Pill near Cheriton the small river was failing the Water Framework Directive’s water quality objectives, primarily because of storm water discharges from the Reynoldston sewage treatment works.  In this case NRW has worked with Dŵr Cymru/Welsh Water who are now installing a new treatment plant.  But there is also water contamination from cattle using the river, so NRW has co-ordinated fencing of the riverside.  NRW has used night cameras at the site and have seen otters, but also invasive mink; however, it were surprised to find there are healthy populations of the now rare water vole in that area.  NRW is managing the area to control the mink and sustain the water voles.

o   NRW is working with the Gower commoners to have controlled burns to reduce the chance of wildfires due to lack of grazing.

o   Staff have also worked with the City and County of Swansea (CCS) to reduce the spend on removing sand from Oystermouth Road.  NRW brought in a specialist to advise how to naturalise the movement of sand along the Bay.

Fran focussed on greening Swansea city centre and particularly on a project called ‘Swansea Eastside Connections’.   NRW has worked closely with CCS to identify places like Kilvey Hill, the Tennant Canal and Crymyn Bog, which are environmental assets but are difficult for people to access.  It engaged a local company called Urban Foundry to identify issues and opportunities to make connections, and Fran showed us an animation of these proposals which was produced by the University of Wales Trinity St David.

Fran explained that she and her team are currently conducting a consultation with people in Swansea on what they want for the environment of the city centre.  She encouraged everyone to give their views either via Twitter using #citynature, or at their stalls in the city centre, or in writing to either NRW or CCS.  They aim to enhance the quality and variety of nature in the city and influence strategic investment.  They are using the Green Space Factor, which was first developed in Berlin, and are developing it further to be a tool for planners and developers in Swansea.  They want their initiative to deliver actions on the ground for nature.These engaging talks sparked a range of questions from the audience, ranging from the protection of special trees to air pollution hot spots and the proposed Llansamlet waste incinerator.

Ruth Williams

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