Local politicians have warned that rural Wales needs protections from speculative tree planting from wealthy business people and large multinational companies which risks supplanting Welsh agriculture. The politicians said that Welsh planning policy and agricultural support schemes weren’t resilient enough to protect Wales from increasing evidence of Welsh farm holdings being bought by speculators in order to plant trees.
Cefin Campbell, Plaid Cymru MS for Mid and West Wales, said:
“Everyone recognises that tree planting has an important role in helping us meet our environmental policies, but this must be done whilst protecting the vibrancy of our agricultural businesses in rural Wales. There is growing evidence of a land grab where wealthy business people and large multi-national businesses are buying up Welsh farms to cover the land in trees. Once our farms are lost, they wont return. Not only is this a disaster for Welsh food production, but also for sustainable communities in rural areas.
“Farming is facing serious challenges not least by the impact of Brexit, and it is understandable why some farmers feel now is the time to cash in their asset. We need a policy response before it’s too late. It’s plainly ridiculous that speculators from outside Wales for instance are able to access Welsh farming support payments when the aim of the policy surely should be to ensure that the money remains in Wales. Easy ways to help address the issue could include ensuring that only active farmers are able to access support payments via the Glasdir scheme, and to cap the percentage of farm acreage each holding is able to plant.”
Carmarthenshire MP Jonathan Edwards said:
“Welsh tree planting targets can be easily met by working with existing farmers. If each farm holding was given a target to set aside for tree planting, we would easily reach the Welsh Governments targets. Reaching our environmental goals would be achieved sustainably without undermining our food production base.
Wales is well ahead of England in terms of geographical tree coverage.
“At the moment we are seeing large multinationals out pricing local people and using Welsh land to help them off set their carbon emissions as companies. The Welsh Government should be protecting Welsh communities. Technical Advice Notes for Welsh Local Planning Authorities seem to me to be out of date, and we need to regulate tree planting on the Welsh countryside by bringing it within the planning process. It’s madness that a local farmer has to go through all sorts of planning controls to build a bungalow on their land for their children, yet a large multi-national can buy a Welsh farm and turn it into a forest completely changing the landscape of a local area without any controls.”