ELECTION 2017 – RURAL WALES AND OUR NATURAL ENVIRONMENT
I am a dedicated member of Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales (CPRW), but this is my personal assessment of the party manifestos.
THIS IS NOT A CPRW STATEMENT

In the imminent election, there are many aspects of life in Wales to consider as we decide how to vote. If you love our unique countryside and landscapes. please consider the issues affecting rural Wales and the environment, and question candidates about their policies in these areas. Our wonderful countryside, uplands, coast, green spaces constitute one of the main and most positive characteristics of Wales, valued by most of us in Wales and visitors alike, but some politicians seem to regard them as merely areas to exploit and build on. To mention just one of the threats that have emerged recently, huge areas of ‘solar farms’ covering the countryside appear to have little or no planning assessment and control . Solar panels – yes indeed, but on domestic and industrial roofs.
Please bear this in mind when you vote. Which parties
• Mention the environment at all? (If not, avoid them)
• Mention the need for protecting rural Wales for us, and more importantly for our future generations – landscapes, national parks and AONBs, countryside, farming, rural life?
• Value wildlife & biodiversity – designating protected areas, conserving habitats, helping pollinators? (ie no M4 Diversion across precious Levels)
• Recognise that green spaces and recreation improve physical and mental wellbeing?
• Appreciate that the natural environment provides multiple eco-services?
• Know that tourism is one of our main ‘industries’, and the beauty of rural Wales the major attraction?

SO WHAT’S IN THE WELSH MANIFESTOS FOR RURAL WALES?

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS
The manifesto pledges to:
- fight to prevent or counteract the adverse impacts on farmers of losing European aid from the Common Agricultural Policy and easy access to European markets.
– ensure good local services and community facilities such as schools, public transport, local shops, cultural venues and pubs, as well as more houses to meet local needs
- boost the attractiveness of Wales as a tourist destination
- ensure that every property and business in Wales has access to superfast broadband and good mobile phone coverage
Not much for the environment

WELSH LABOUR
A page and half on the environment towards the end of a long document, including the following, although it does slip into agro-industry speak now & again: -
• Investing in our environment is investing in our future. We will defend and extend existing environmental protections.
• ….. invest in rural and coastal communities …..
• …… Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest are all under threat.
• We will protect our bees by prohibiting neonicotinoids …….
• ……. we will work with farmers and foresters to plant a million trees of native species to promote biodiversity and better flood management ….
Some positives, but with experience of  recent WG environmental policies, I’m not convinced that degradation of the countryside and sacrificing green spaces everywhere in the name of economic growth will stop. Clincher for me is they are still promising the crude, old-fashioned, horrendously expensive M4 Diversion solution to a relatively minor and regional transport problem. Since Sue Essex retired, successive administrations have become increasingly anti-environment
UKIP
Not a lot on environment, I guess that’s not their main focus, but two helpful quotes: -
- Giving local people a greater say on major planning decisions through legally binding referendums
– Relying on wind-power is “not sensible”.

CONSERVATIVE
I cannot find any mention of environment, countryside, rural Wales. But it does say Conservatives will be
‘ … pressing the Welsh Government to deliver the M4 relief road’
So much for Conservative Conservation. You may guess my view on that

GREEN PARTY
Certainly the most innovative and interesting manifesto, worth reading. Includes: -
We need warm, sustainable and affordable homes cutting energy use, carbon emissions and reducing fuel poverty.
… an innovative green economy based on local micro and small-scale renewable generation projects
We support South East Metro and would cancel the planned expansion of M4
Many environmental positives, but only five candidates, so is it a waste of a vote?

PLAID CYMRU
PC has indicated its sensitivity for the Welsh environment at times, for instance its opposition to the M4 Diversion, so what about the manifesto?
Pretty pictures of our natural beauty throughout – a good start
Leanne Wood’s Intro- actually mentions ‘landscape’: -
The country’s landscape and past intertwine to reveal a nation with tremendous opportunities in tourism and the arts.
….. where we can meet our obligations as global citizens to the environment including ending our dependence on fossil fuels and preventing behaviours that are detrimental to our planet.
Then a second intro includes
They are the global challenges – social, economic, demographic, fiscal and, above all, environmental – that every nation in this century is facing.
I like the ‘above all, environmental’ bit. After that: -
We will promote our natural environment and biodiversity through effective sustainable development (So that’s ‘promote’, not protect or conserve)
The BBC review lists mention of environmental issues, including: -
– update and consolidate Welsh wildlife legislation, creating a new Wildlife Act for Wales
– introduce a new climate change act, adopting ambitious but achievable greenhouse gas and pollution targets for 2030 and 2050
- reduce plastic waste with a deposit return scheme
– fight to reform the Red Meat Levy so that £1m of lost funding for Hybu Cig Cymru stays within Wales
- oppose the construction and use of pylons through National Parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty
So there are a few positive proposals, but nothing about Welsh planning policy and process, questionable housing targets, wind & solar farms, management of National Parks etc

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Of course there are many other considerations when placing your cross, and I’ve no doubt missed some environmental stuff, but it is amazing to me that most parties
ignore the natural environment.
WE NEED IT FOR OUR FUTURE GENERATIONS!