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TV wildlife presenter supports campaign to protect Gwent Levels

Iolo Williams with chldren from Magor School At Magor Marsh (Pic: David Sankson/ Gwent Wildlife Trust)

TELEVISION wildlife presenter Iolo Williams has given his backing to a campaign to prevent development on the Gwent Levels. 

The Gwent Wildlife Trust is collecting signatures on petitions calling for action to protect the environmentally sensitive wetlands which it fears are under threat from developments including solar farms that have been proposed for the area. 

The naturalist, known for programmes such as the BBC’s Springwatch and Wild Wales, said the lowland area stretching from Newport and along the coast to Monmouthshire is an important habitat for wildlife that is in need of stronger protections, and urged people to sign the petitions. 

Mr Williams said: “There is a very clear danger that developments of all kinds could fragment this wonderful, wildlife-rich area, resulting in a reduction in all-important habitats, which would have a hugely detrimental impact on many vulnerable species.   

“These fragile wetlands need to be properly protected as a matter of urgency, as it is of huge value to humankind as well as wildlife.” 

A water vole on the Levels (Pic: Andy Karran / Gwent Wildlife Trust)

The trust has been collecting signatures via the wildlife trusts website, and already gathered more than 1,400 signatures, while a second petition is to be discussed by the Welsh Parliament’s Petitions Committee. 

That is because it has already attracted more than 380 signatures, which is above the threshold of 250 that automatically triggers its consideration. 

If the petition attracts at least 10,000 signatures by January 25 next year, after it has been on the Senedd petition’s website for six months, it will be considered for debate in the Senedd. 

The Gwent Wildlife Trust has claimed the Welsh planning system is “unable to control” major projects such as solar energy developments as well as business parks in the area. It wants a halt to any new development until beefed up planning regulations are in place and says Planning Policy Wales should include enhanced protections for Sites of Special Scientific Interest such as the Gwent Levels. 

Adam Taylor, chief executive of the trust, said: “We are calling for a halt to significant development and a coherent, legally binding plan put in place for the protection of this spectacular wetland and the wildlife it supports. 

“We need to stress that we are not opposed to solar energy, simply that such developments need to be located on land where they will not irretrievably damage a nationally important and designated landscape, teeming with wildlife.” 

A spokesman for the Welsh Government said it is working on a “strategic plan” to protect the area and updating its national planning policies.

The spokesman said: “We are working on strategic planning guidance to protect the Gwent Levels to avoid further unacceptable biodiversity and landscape impacts. This is a complex and detailed process.

“We are also updating national planning policy to ensure there is enhanced protection for Sites of Special Scientific Interest, such as the Gwent Levels.”

The petition to “Halt significant new development on the Gwent Levels SSSIs” can be found at the Senedd petition’s website.  https://petitions.senedd.wales/petitions/245508