NEWS of the failure of talks to settle the future of a major nature reserve in South Wales has alarmed Senedd member Suzy Davies.
Mrs Davies has contacted Environment Minister Lesley Griffiths and Natural Resources Wales after hearing that the future of the Kenfig National Nature Reserve is still up in the air after talks to lease the site to NRW have failed.
The Kenfig Corporation, which owns the Reserve, has announced on its website that NRW will not be leasing this site and the two bodies are now discussing the possibility of NRW taking out an agreement with Kenfig Corporation to protect the site.
Welsh Conservative Suzy said: “This is very disappointing news. The reserve has been in limbo since BCBC’s lease ran out last December. To be fair to the council, they gave the Corporation five years notice of their intention to quit yet only a month before the lease expired everyone was still in the dark about what would happen – and that remains the case.
“Since then, there has been no warden on site and the group of volunteer wardens which used to work with him has been disbanded because of a lack of insurance cover.
“Local residents, who try and keep a watchful eye on this reserve, are concerned because it is being dug up willy-nilly by people with metal detectors who are operating without permission but, as there is nobody there to challenge them, they are getting away with it.
“Also, in the summer people have lit barbecues on this site which provides habitat for a number of rare species including the Fen orchid and Carver bee. I also understand that important work to protect the habitat of both species, which should be underway now, is not being done but there is nobody to organise or fund it.
“The situation is worsened by the failure of the Kenfig Corporation to engage with anyone in the community about what is happening. Based on previous experience, I don’t anticipate hearing from them with any speed, if at all. There seems to be no democratic accountability at all in the present set up and the Corporation appears to be self-perpetuating as it chooses who is to fill vacant seats on the board. I know some local people who have applied have not been contacted back.”
Suzy said she would be pressing Lesley Griffiths to intervene and also be asking NRW to explain why the talks have failed and why it will not be taking a lease on this site.
“Having NRW take over this reserve would be the best option to safeguard its future,” she said. “However, if that’s not possible for some reason, we should know why. It is a publicly funded body designated to safeguard the environment in Wales – it is the successor to both the Environment Agency and the Countryside Commission for Wales. I will be asking some searching questions about why these talks have failed.
“Also, the Minister has some responsibility here and I will be asking her to intervene. Standing back and wringing her hands is not going to get things sorted.”