The closing date for submissions is 2 May 2012

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Notes to accompany the r
esponse by Llais y Goedwig to the
Natural Resources Wales
(new single environment body)
consultation

by the Welsh Government

2
1

April 2012



This document is intended as a guide for members on the background to the response to the
consultation by LlyG. The response has been sent in already as we wanted to ensure that it reached
the consultation team in good time. Please feel free to use the not
es to help you formulate your own
response to the consultation. You can find the full documents and online submission forms on
http://wales.gov.uk/consultati
ons/environmentandcountryside/singlebody/

or you can post your
response to: Carrie Moss, ‘A Living Wales’ Programme Team, Department for Environment and
Sustainable Development, Welsh Government, Cathays Park, Cardiff CF10 3NQ.



The closing date for submi
ssions is 2
nd

May 2012


Background

The Natural Resources Wales consultation document (WG14766) says it seeks views on

the Welsh
Government proposals to create a single environment body for Wales
. As far as forestry and
woodlands are concerned the new body will work to the existing
Woodlands for Wales

strategy and
manage the Welsh forest estate i.e. the 7% of Wales’ land currently managed by the Forestry
Commission. Regardless of whether you work
in Forestry Commission land or not these changes are
likely to have a profound effect on the work of community woodland groups.


Llais y Goedwig has been taking part in consultations on this point and this is another opportunity to
put forward suggestions

on how the new body could best serve the needs of communities who wish
to be involved at a practical level with the management of their local woodlands. In order to get the
most from the new arrangements it is important that as many groups and people as p
ossible
respond to the consultation. This document is intended to help you better appreciate the issues and
to equip you to make your own response. The points raised are those which LlyG will be submitting


so please let us know if you are happy to suppo
rt the LlyG response but don’t feel as if you have to
copy them to your own response


the more ideas that go into the mix the better!


There is little detail of the actual proposal in the document i.e. there is no outline structure for the
new body and it

is clear that much of the detail is to be worked out later. What is being sought now
is some indication of the direction and general shape of the new organisation. In order to make it
easier to see what is being proposed I have organised a few notes under

the questions asked in the
consultation document so you don’t have to wade through all the documents.



Question 1: What are your views on our proposal to deliver more integrated management by
bringing the three bodies together and creating a single envir
onmental body for Wales?

What is proposed is to bring together the functions and powers of the Forestry Commi
ssion Wales
(FCW), Countryside Council for W
ales

(CCW)

and
the Environment Agency (EA). CCW presently has
responsibility for nature conservation
and the development of the countryside so looks after Nature
Reserves, advises and regulates activities which have an impact on wildlife and the countryside. EAW
is the biggest of the three and looks after water which includes flood defences, licensing of
abstraction for drinking and hydro and controlling pollution. FCW looks after the Welsh Government
forest estate and also regulates forestry and until recently managed woodland grants. The biggest
risk of the changes is that we may lose the friendly relati
onships many groups have with their local

2

FCW staff. Another albeit lower risk is that current moves to more local contracting and access to
forest (e.g. the recently launched Woodlands and You
1

and HydroWales
2

initiatives) will be
diminished. However, th
ere is also the opportunity for improvements to the availability of local
advice on a wide range of issues and perhaps more locally relevant plans and grants.


What we propose to say to this question on behalf of LlyG member and other community initiative
s:


Bringing together the three bodies has the potential to facilitate pro
-
active environmental
management by grass roots community woodland groups. This in turn could be the powerhouse of
the integration of woodland management and the use of woodland
resources across the landscape
i.e. we have examples of successful community woodland initiatives which start with one small
wood and grow to include woodlands within the valley. However, careful attention needs to be paid
to the structure of the new body
if this is to happen. Learning from our cumulative experiences of
working with local FCW and CCW officers we suggest that:



The ideal configuration for the new body would be ‘flat’ with a HQ able to provide high
quality technical expertise and required regu
latory and administrative functions directly to
Area offices which would be the interface with the environment (management and
monitoring functions), communities (advice, grant support, access to WG forest land),
contractors (local procurement and sales) a
nd public (education, recreation etc). Area
offices do not need be identical and some may have more or fewer staff and accommodate
specialist teams


the important point would be they all can provide the same public
-
facing
service.



Areas
should not be lar
ger than existing FC Areas and offices should be in both urban and
rural locations
. Area boundaries should be aligned with topographic features e.g.
watersheds to facilitate operationalisation of landscape
-
scale environmental management.



Partnerships betw
een land managers within an Area should be encouraged and supported
and expressed in the form of Area development plans

which should be reviewed against
local authority RDP aims and outputs
. Plans
will need to be funded but this can come from
many sources
including in kind contributions from the communities but there will need to
be seed and match funding from the new body. It is important that the plans include the
public forest estate
.



Area officers
should be
a
ble
to provide advice and support for biodive
rsity conservation,
woodland management, access and management of water resources

to land managers and
others within their Areas
. Officers should ideally live within their areas and have an intimate
knowledge of the local environment and accessible so comm
unities can establish a face
-
to
-
face relationship with them.



Area officers
should be
empowered
, with suitable oversight,

to make decisions on local
matters and have these supported by the
body
. Examples of such decisions might be an
agreement for a
community event in a public woodland

or arranging small
-
scale sales of
timber to local enterprises and doing away with centralised WHAM systems and
bureaucracy
.



Area officers should be supported by a lean and efficient headquarters with good
communication
s between policy, action and evidence. They should have the ability to call in
specialist advice from HQ
and elsewhere
as needed.




1

http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/INFD
-
8J2GJ9

2

http://www.forestry.gov.uk/newsrele.nsf/AllByUNID/E4286BE2EA2CF486802579A3005C39FB


3



Area officers should have flexibility to make small
-
scale changes to the FDP to enable
greater engagement with communities wis
hing to manage forestry resources where
appropriate woodlands h
ave been identified.



There should be resources
targeted at sustainable communities and
well
-
being and there
should be targets for achievements in these areas
.


Question 2: In developing our pr
oposals for the body, are there additional measures we could take
to address the concerns we have identified in section 2.4 or any other concerns which you have?

These arose from discussions with interested parties during the development of the business ca
se for
the new body last year. These inclu
ded ‘forestry sector concerns …
about the security of future timber
supply; the continuity of public ownership, and forestry skills’. To address this it is proposed
that the
new body is provided with clear duties, t
argets and direction ...including support for the rural
economy …the intention is to retain the estate and increase woodland cover … forestry staff will be
the single largest function in the new body …there will be dedicated policy resources to forestry
wi
thin the Welsh Government. This all sounds fine but there is no detail provided yet so this is
something we need to watch. The rhetoric also needs to be matched with resources and assurances
that forest policy set within the Welsh Government will remain ac
cessible and sympathetic to the
realities on the ground. The recent change from the Better Woodlands for Wales (BWW) forestry
grants system operated by FCW to the Glastir Woodland Management payments for ecosystem
services does not bode well. Glastir WM do
es not contain many components of BWW which served
community woodlands well or supported economic development of woodland (e.g. silvicultural
thinning) and there are no
-
going issues with the top
-
down approach being advocated. [Glastir is part
of the Rural
Development Plan (RDP) which is the EU funding arrangements for rural development
derived from the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).]


We propose to respond to this question with the following:


We are pleased to hear that the new body will be required to retain the public forest estate and will
have a duty to support the role of woodlands in the rural economy. However, the question of the
purpose of public forest estate remains unclear. Is it a r
esource for the people of Wales to use and
enjoy with the new body as a custodian or is it an economic resource for the new body or
government treasury? LlyG would argue that it should be the former and that the resource should
be considered the inalienabl
e property of the people of Wales and not the private estate of
government. The destination and use of revenues flowing from the use of this capital (car park fees,
franchising, timber, wind, hydro, coal etc) is also of concern


is this to be reinvested i
n forestry?


We remain concerned about the internalisation of forest policy to Welsh Government


experience
with the integration of grant support to forestry with Glastir has not been good. Much that was of
value to community woodland groups and support
ed economic development of woodlands has
been lost and there is a feeling that forestry stakeholders are not valued by Glastir administrators. It
may be that an internal forestry policy team may be better able to access RDP, other funding
opportunities and

represent forestry as an important contribution to other departments in the
Welsh Government. However, the risk is that a small team isolated in Cardiff may become distant
from realities on the ground and have little influence on wider environmental polic
y. Agriculture is a
big player in RDP


we remain sceptical that a small internal, subordinate team on forestry issues will
be heard.


Question 3: What are your views on this phased approach? How could we improve on it?

The phased approach is
the appointme
nt by the Minister of a Chairman for the new body who will
appoint a CEO and Board this summer. A shadow body will then be formed late summer/autumn

4

2012 to organise the transition to the new body which will be launched in April 2013. There is a lot of
leg
islation to get through as powers need Orders to be transferred to the new body and this timeline
is very ambitious. Many stakeholders consider a rapid transition is best to minimise disruption and
uncertainties but there is a risk that the process may go
so fast that there is insufficient time for
stakeholder consultation and reflection. There is also the impression that there is a lot going on
behind the scenes to which we are not privy which is not an auspicious way to create a transparent,
public
-
facing

institution. However, there is little that we can do about this so we propose simply to
respond by saying:


The timetable for establishment of the new body is very tight with little time for reflection and
stakeholder discussions. For example, it appears
there will only be a few weeks between the close of
this consultation and the appointment of the Chairman, Board and Shadow Body. We are concerned
this is insufficient time for the plans for the new body to reflect the results of the consultation. We
under
stand that a rapid transition to the new body is required to minimise disruption and
uncertainly but this needs to be tempered with reflection and careful consideration of alternatives.
Given the importance to the new body of the provision of advice and su
pport to partners in the
delivery of the NEF perhaps there should be more opportunities for in
-
situ consultation with existing
clients to develop the public interface for the new body.



Question 4: Do these proposals provide a good basis for the principal

aim and strategic outcomes
of the body? How could they be improved?

The proposed aim of the new body is to be: ‘To maintain, improve and develop Wales’ natural
resources, to deliver benefit to the people and economy of Wales now and into the future.’ With

f
ive

strategic outcomes:

1.

Contribute to protecting public health and safety and to promoting economic, social and
environmental well
-
being and outdoor recreation.

2.

Prevent, minimise, remedy or mitigate the harmful effect on the environment of pollution,
al
ien species and diseases.

3.

Further the conservation, restoration and enhancement of ecosystems.

4.

Secure the sustainable use, management and consumption of natural resources and
ecosystem services.

5.

Contribute to both mitigating and adapting to the effects
of climate change
.


The aim doesn’t seem t
o
o bad…
though there are inconsistencies and muddled phrasing. But will the
new body be better able to deliver this? It is difficult to say until there are more details of how it is
going to function. So for now ou
r response will be:


Despite a few tweaks to the phrasing there is little to object to in the aim and outcomes as
presented here. Outcome 1 could perhaps be better phrased: why is public health, safety and
outdoor recreation singled out


are they not part

of social well
-
being? In outcome 2 it may be
better to say ‘non
-
native’ than ‘alien’ species. Outcome 3 needs to be reconciled with outcome 5
and ecosystems allowed to change and restoration to be forward as well as backwards looking. In
outcome 4 how is
consumption different from use? Should there be something about a sustainable
flow of materials to meet local needs for provisioning services (e.g. wood) and as a basis for a
sustainable rural economy?


Judging whether the proposals for a new body will ach
ieve this aim and outcomes is difficult without
further details of the form, powers and
modus operandi

of the new body. This is perhaps something
for later consultation when there is more clarity and detail on the new body.



5



Question 5: What are your
views on the approach to the delivery framework?

The delivery framework is a big table of outcomes with objectives, targets and indicators for each.
There is a lot in the table and much looks ok in terms of its sentiment but

it is very muddled up and
there

is little that looks familiar from the Woodlands for Wales strategy although the new body is to
continue to deliver this government strategy. So this is perhaps all we can say for now:



The tabular approach to outcomes, objectives, targets and indicators

is a standard one and is
broadly similar to the Woodland for Wales strategy, its associated Action plan and the Corporate
Plans for FCW. It is a sensible approach though there is a lot more to do to integrate the elements
drawn from FCW, CCW and EA and pr
esent them in a coherent manner. What is more of a concern is
the lack of any clear links with the Woodland for Wales strategy and its associated Action Plan.
Section 4.2 says that the new body should deliver existing Welsh Government environment
strategie
s


if this is the case then there should be explicit cross
-
referencing to the various strategies
to ensure that nothing is missed out and that existing strategies and the partnerships established to
deliver them are maintained.


Question 6: Are the functi
ons described in tables 1 to 3 a reasonable summary of those required?
How could they be improved?

These

tables cover the functions to be transferred to the new body, these are broken down into 3
categories: those that impose a duty or give powers to the body so it can carry out its work

(e.g. duty
of care for flood defences, regulation of industry etc.); ge
neral powers (e.g. to raise charges or to
prosecute) and duties which regulate the work of the body (e.g. to have regard for biodiversity etc.).


LlyG is not able to comment on many of these


we assume that these represent a reasonable
summary of existing functions and powers of the three legacy bodies. However, the functions listed
in Table 1 still places functions derived from each of the three a
gencies into separate boxes.
Integration of these is required if the aspiration to create synergies and efficiencies in delivery of
ecosystem services to be achieved. Further work is required to integrate functions more completely


it maybe that external
assistance would help with this as may be difficult for staff seconded to
work on this from each legacy body to see beyond their own silos.

The SEB must be joined up to strategies and policies from the NEF and SD Bill.

We are pleased to see ‘Community use

and management’ in Table 1 as an example of work towards
‘Sustainable use and management of forests’ we would be willing to work with the Shadow body to
flesh out the operationalisation of this function.


Question 7: What are your views on our proposals
for changes to Welsh Government functions,
including Marine and Wildlife Licensing and Tree and Plant Health? How could they be improved?

We do not have the expertise to comment on the functions mentioned but this section also includes
comments related to
Glastir which say this function will not be transferred to the new body. This is a
real concern not least because of the present apparent inability of the forestry sector to successful
lobby Glastir to address serious problems with the provisions and admin
istration of the new scheme.


No comment on marine & Wildlife Licensing and Tree & Plant Health.


In relation to 5.3.5 Agri
-
environment and Glastir


we can see that transfer to the new body of
elements of Glastir from the Welsh Government may be risky u
ntil the new body finds its feet and

6

CAP reforms are completed


there are significant problems with the forestry element of Glastir
emerging. The new body will need to have direct access and influence with the Welsh Government
Glastir development and admi
nistration to safeguard delivery of timely and commensurate
payments for forestry and biodiversity conservation in a manner which supports existing woodland
management plans. It also needs to have a function in the development of other RDP strands to
suppo
rt economic development based on natural resources.


Question 8: Do you agree with the proposals for co
-
ordination of Welsh Government investment
in environmental research? How could we improve them?

This mostly says things will conti
n
ue as they are now
with no devolution of Forest Research. There
will be more central control and the Welsh Government will do the commissioning of environmental
research through the Wales Environment Research Hub based in Bangor University. A key issue for us
is:


We don’t h
ave much to say about central commissioning of research and have worked in the past
with Forest Research so are pleased to see they will retain a presence in Wales.


A missing element in this is the role and value of citizen science. Through NGOs such as
RSPB, as
communities of people caring for local environments (LlyG members) and as amateur experts the
people of Wales are very much interested and engaged in environmental monitoring. There is much
that could be done using participatory research technique
s to develop the contribution of citizen
science to research and monitoring not just of the environment but also of the delivery of ecosystem
services. We suggest that this should be an additional function of the new body.


Question 9: Do you agree with t
he proposals about the status, governance and accountability of
the new body? Is there any way we could improve the proposed arrangements?

The new body is intended
to be a Welsh Government Sponsored Body. This means it would have an
independent Chair and B
oard appointed by the Welsh Ministers regulated by the Commissioner for
Public Appointments. The important point is the Board would be independent of the Government in
its decisions and the delivery of its work. This is intended to give the public confiden
ce that advice
and decisions are not politically motivated. The Board will have 12 members to represent different
interests e.g. forestry, fisheries, recreation etc.. The CEO of the body would be employed by the body
with the approval of the Ministers. The

new body would be accountable to the Minister for
Environment and Sustainable Development and there will be a two year probation period with
greater scrutiny and support from the Government. The commissioning of the body takes the form of
an annual remit
letter which will specify the new body’s contribution to broad Welsh Government
agenda and the Minister would approve long term strategic and corporate plans.


So far so good


though 12 is a small number to replace the ~35 people who between them govern
t
he three existing organisations. There is also not much mention of public accountability or
independent scrutiny of operations. At present the CCW council meetings are public and FCW can be
called to account by the independent National Committee for Wales.



LlyG is not able to comment on the details of the relationship between the new body and the
Ministers


we presume that the Audit Office will ensure that the new body is indeed independant,
delivering what is required and acting within its mandate.


What is missing from the proposals is public accountability.
There should be strong and transparent
oversight of the work of the
new body
by stakeholders and representatives of civil society. There are
many possible structures for such a body


the importa
nt point being that representation should be
accessible to all and
have the power to
call the
new body

to account.



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Question 10: Have you any views on the approach we propose for the new body in relation to its
stakeholder arrangements? How might we
improve the approach?

There are two stakeholder panels for forestry in Wales: the National Committee is statutory and has
some real powers while

the Woodland Strategy Advisory Panel (WSAP) is a non
-
statutory multi
-
stakeholder group from which statutory ta
sk and finish groups can be convened. The proposal is to
shift the functions of the National Committee to the Board of the new body and WSAP will be
disbanded.


Stakeholder engagement and consultation would be set up by the Board as it sees fit though there is
to be a requirement
to

bring forward, consult upon and implement proposals to ensure effective
stakeholder engagement

. This could
take any form
includ
ing
local committees,
board subgroups
with co
-
opted members
,

more formal links with existing locally based groups and the use of new and
modern technology.

It is suggested that this will allow flexibility, more widespread input from
stakeholders and the possib
ility of more radical engagement methods including third sector delivery
options. This is ambitious and there is perhaps some merit to doing it this way. However, the lack of
any real powers for an independent oversight body is a cause for concern.


We are

happy that there will be opportunities for the development of novel and innovative ways for
the new body to engage with stakeholders. This should be on an Area as well as subject basis and
consultation should be part of the
modus operandi

of the new body.



We are concerned that the statutory role and powers of the National Committee for Wales are to be
subsumed into the Board. This together with the lack of a formal oversight body means there is no
high level independent scrutiny or powers to call the new

body or its relationship to the Welsh
Government to account. This maybe a required function especially to adjudicate in disputes as
provided for in present statute. Certainly public confidence will be enhanced if the body has to be
publically accountable
to an independent body.


The new body will need to continue present FCW sponsored
stakeholder engagement with
Glastir
and more generally with the development of future
RDP
programmes
.

There should be formal links
between
the new body
and Local Authority R
ural Partnerships managing RDP programmes.


Since forest

policy development and monitoring
is to be taken into Welsh Government and WSAP is
apparently to be disbanded we hope there will continue to be a mechanism for stakeholder
consultation on policy evol
ution and monitoring. The proposals say nothing about this


will this be
provided by the new Policy team? Or might it be sponsored by the new body? It is important that
stakeholder consultation on forestry policy is maintained.


Question 11: What are your

views on the aspects of the regulatory arrangements?

This section deals with self
-
regulation e.g. EA can issue water abstraction licenses to itself and FCW
doesn’t need felling permits. The three bodies also permit each other which will increase the level

of
self
-
permi
t
ting by the new body. We are told this won’t be a problem.

The other arrangements are
ones we are not competent to comment on. However, there is no mention in the text of the self
-
permitting of felling by FCW which we feel requires more cons
ideration.


At present FCW does not require or issues felling licenses to itself for five year felling periods. The
felling and associated re
-
stock and landscape design plans are bundled together as three maps
which are designated the ‘Design plan’ for eac
h forest block. There is a presumption for local
consultation on these with statutory bodies (e.g. Community Councils), CCW, CADW and also with
interested local stakeholders. We would like to see the Design Plans evolve into true Management

8

plans with grea
ter local consultation and engagement in operations, use of timber and development
of social benefits. In addition, we wonder whether there should perhaps be more accountability on
the operation of these plans and this could perhaps be achieved through the

introduction of a more
formal process for regulating felling on the public estate.


Question 12: If you have any related issues which we have not specifically addressed, please use
this space to report them.


We are concerned that the new body may repre
sent a greater move to centralisation of power
across the functions of the existing three bodies in Wales. Whilst acknowledging the requirement for
some centralisation of functions, which will provided opportunities for economies, we hope that
more decisio
n making power on day
-
to
-
day operations of the new body are decentralised to local
area offices. This will enhance a local public facing role and allow greater local integration and ‘buy
-
in’ to the operations of the new body.