Natural Resources Policy
The Welsh Government published the Natural Resources Policy in August 2017. It sets out the Welsh Ministers’ general and specific policies for contributing to achieving sustainable management of natural resources in relation to Wales. This is the second of the three key products to emerge from the Environment (Wales) Act – building on the recent State of Natural Resources Repor t produced by NRW – and now enables the task of development of Area Statements (to help implement the policy) to begin.
The policy, and accompanying written statement from the Cabinet Secretary sets out three National themes. These are:
- Delivering nature-based solutions- working more effectively with nature to tackle our big challenges. This in particular reflects the conclusions drawn in our SoNaR report;
- Increasing renewable energy and resource efficiency- and setting out a clear pathway for investment in these areas; and
- Taking a place-based approach- to respond to local needs and opportunities.
The NRP covers and integrates a broad range of traditional policy areas (including water, food and drink, farming and agriculture, forestry, waste, energy, countryside access and environment) and intends to maximise contribution across the 7 Well-being Goals from the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act.
Recap on role of Area Statements
Area Statementswill help to facilitate the delivery of the Welsh Government’s Natural Resources Policy at the local level. The Environment (Wales) Act requires the Statements to include information about the natural resources in that place, the benefits they provide, and the priorities, risks and opportunities that need to be addressed, to achieve sustainable management of them.
Area Statements are an evidence base to help deliver sustainable management of natural resources at a local level right across Wales. They will bring together data, information, organisations, and ways of engaging others to help better understand the state and trends of natural resources in an area, the pressures on them and the benefits we receive. In doing so, they should also stimulate action and collaboration around management of natural resources.
Area Statementsare a fundamental building block for other planning processes in Wales – in particular (but not exclusively) Well-being Plans, Local Development Plans, National Park and AONB Management Plans, Water Company Plans and NRW’s own statutory and operational planning processes. Because they need to feed into these processes in a relevant and timely way – we need to ensure the process for their development is done collaboratively, using the collective knowledge from a broad range of stakeholders.
What NRW has done since the last update (May 2017)
As set out in the last update, the first step we will need to consider is how the natural resources policies could be addressed at different spatial scales. Since the three priority areas are so high level, we have been talking to Welsh Government about how to now turn the policy into implementation.
It’s clear that we would like to develop some spatial priorities that reflect some of the key opportunities in the NRP – this will help to frame our work on area statements. This could bring together existing spatial evidence on opportunities to deliver nature based solutions, for example (not exclusively):
- Opportunities to maintain Wales’ productive capacity; for crops, livestock, fish, timber and natural fluxes of energy
- Opportunities for supporting health outcomes; including in relation to air and noise pollution through to conditions associated with physical inactivity.
- Opportunities for hazard protection; particularly in relation to the impacts of flooding and climate change, etc.
These are still early discussion and we’ll be providing more information in the coming months to confirm what will happen next and the opportunities for stakeholders to be involved.
Taking a place-based approach
The operational teams leading on the development of Area Statements are beginning to gather a range of evidence around the natural resources in their place, the key stakeholders and active groups. We have focused a lot of initial energy in supporting the development of local Well-being plans through the Public Services Boards. This has included providing evidence and data packs for every PSB in Wales and offering support with drawing together elements of the Assessments of local wellbeing. These assessments, along with the response analysis, and the connections we are making with other stakeholders through this process, will be important elements to build on when developing the area statements.
For the marine area, the Natural Resources Policy confirms that the marine planning process will be a key additional driver and opportunity to deliver SMNR at sea. We intend to begin engagement through existing strategic networks such as the Wales Marine Advisory and Action Group and the Wales Marine Fisheries Advisory Group. A current focus is to understand and agree ways of working over the coastal boundary, so we can ensure the process adds value in supporting integrated management over this important and unique boundary.
We are in the process of developing a communications framework, to support officers working in place to have conversations with local stakeholders, as well as the ongoing National conversations.
If your organisation has local representatives, or you operate at a local level in Wales, please get in touch with one of the Area Statement coordinators for an initial chat, and to be added to local stakeholder contact lists:
North West Wales
Anglesey, Gwynedd, Conwy, Snowdonia National Park
North East Wales
Flintshire, Wrexham, Denbighshire
tbc (Contact Justin Hanson in the interim)
South West Wales
Swansea, Neath Port Talbot
South East Wales
Monmouthshire, Newport, Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly
South Central Wales
Cardiff, Vale of Glamorgan, Merthyr, RCT, Bridgend
Or you can email the central mailbox: SMNR@cyfoethnaturiolcymru.gov.uk
We hope to develop a loose timeframe for Area Statements setting out our work over the next 12-18 months, but are keen that we retain a flexible and adaptive approach. We expect that rather than one area statement document, there will need to be a range of different resources developed over time, depending on the stakeholders and delivery mechanisms that we need to work with and inform.
This is very much an iterative process. As soon as we begin to see the first products, and maybe even projects emerging from the area statement process – for example, mapped data and evidence about the natural resources, benefits they provide, priorities and risks – we will be sharing them, and seeking further feedback on their value and use.
One of the early opportunities that has been identified is to use our partnership funding to support both the development and delivery of Area Statements.
Funding other organisations to deliver environmental and other benefits has been central to our way of working. This has been via both grant funding and contributing to projects, large and small. The work of our partners is crucial to support the sustainable management of our natural resources.
We’re committed to continue being a funding organisation but we want to improve the way we distribute funding, in line with the new ways of working enshrined within legislation, and we need a new funding approach to support this. With that in mind:
- We are going to fund projects in each of the areas covered by Area Statements – over time, aligned to the priorities, risks and opportunities in those places.
- We will fund ‘All Wales’ projects recognising the interventions that are best delivered once for Wales, or at a particular spatial scale.
- We will use this process to help identify challenges that together we need to address.
Full details on the challenges and guidance on submitting Expressions of Interest will be available at the end of November.
We will have a 2-stage process, inviting initial expressions of interest, followed by invitation to make a full application. For general enquiries please contact: email@example.com
We are keen to use this approach to have conversations with partners about the local priorities and opportunities for sustainable management of natural resources, which in turn can be captured and reflected back in area statements. Even if expressions of interest are not successful in accessing funding this time round, we hope that the information collated will help to shape future work. We hope the approach will help to make connections between different organisations seeking similar objectives and may lead to other forms of support.