Select Committee on Agriculture Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Coed Cymru and Tir Coed (H 6)

  We wish to bring to the attention of the Committee a particular problem relating to farm woodlands in Wales.

  Wales is a land of small family farms usually a close mosaic of pasture with hedgerows and copses. About 80 per cent of all surviving native woodlands in Wales are to be found on farms often along stream sides and in steep gullies. They are considered of national and international importance for the plant and animal communities they support. Their future is threatened by overgrazing, which removes the herb and shrub layers and prevents the succession of young trees, and fragmentation which isolates surviving plants and animals. Traditionally these woods were used as foddering areas for livestock, but in a controlled way. Stock were excluded for period of five or 10 years to allow the next generation of trees to establish. This has not happened in most woodlands since the Second World War and this has left a legacy of middle-aged woods with a limited future.

  The majority of farmers recognise this problem and there has been a remarkable response to our campaign encouraging them to exclude stock. This campaign has been supported with grant aid from Countryside Council for Wales, Forestry Commission and the National Assembly. However, no sooner is stock excluded, but the land must be removed from the forage area. This in turn reduces the farmer's entitlement to support payments. For the majority there is no access to compensatory payments and, where these exist, (Farm Woodland Premium Scheme and Tir Gofal for instance), their levels are unattractive. We have here a case of two strands of administration working in opposition to one another and the farmer caught between wanting to do what is best for everyone but being penalised heavily if he does.

  There may be a solution. Under forestry grant schemes (which include EU funding) up to 10 per cent of the productive area can be allowed as ponds, grassy rides etc provided there is a clear conservation benefit. Grant is still paid on the whole area. If this 10 per cent rule could apply in reverse in respect of pasture land we would greatly simplify the administrative process for farmers and civil servants who presently have to change boundaries every time a field corner is fenced off to plant a few trees. It would also encourage the protection and enlargement of an important element of the Welsh environment at no additional cost to the taxpayer.

  We would welcome the opportunity to give evidence to the Committee and extend an invitation to visit Wales to see the problems and discuss our ideas for improvement.

  Coed Cymru is an initiative to use, protect and enhance the native woodlands of Wales. It is funded by CCW, FC Local Authorities, National Park WDA, WWF EU and supported by many others including the farming unions.

  Tir Coed is a similar broad group of organisations working for appropriate new woodland in Wales, which fits landscape character, creates habitat networks and involves local people.

31 October 2000

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