Powys councillor Elwyn Vaughan has called for both Welsh farming unions to become partners in the ‘Summit to Sea’ project after founder member Rewilding Britain pulled out.
The project, which aims to bring together one continuous ‘nature-rich’ area, stretching from Pumlumon massif to Cardigan Bay, has faced staunch opposition from grassroots farmers who said no attempt had been made to consult with the rural community.
As a result of the concerted campaign against the project, which has seen locals protest with field signs and bumper stickers, four organisations have pulled out of the project, including Ecodyfi, and now key partner Rewilding Britain.
Rewilding Britain’s chief executive Rebecca Wrigley said the group’s role was to ‘support projects in getting off the ground’ and she was ‘hugely proud’ to have helped to get Summit to Sea up and running.
But she added: “While Summit to Sea held a series of face-to-face meetings and consultations locally, we should have communicated more widely that the project was to be community-led and owned.
“We have learned some invaluable lessons about how to do this in the most effective way, which we are committed to putting into practice elsewhere.”
Cllr Vaughan, who also chairs local anti-rewilding group Copa (Cymunedau Oll Pumlumon a’r Ardal), told Farmers Guardian the group’s withdrawal was a victory in the sense that the project leaders were finally listening to local people, but he pledged to carry on fighting for greater control over the plans.
“This is not the end of the story,” he said.
“We will be pursuing to get local ownership over this project, because Rewilding Britain is only one of the partners.
“There are seven left, at the moment. They should bring in both local county councils, Mentrau Iaith, which is a Welsh language community organisation, and both farming unions as partners. That is what we want.
“There is this £3.4m pot of money, and they say they want it to reflect all of society, but only a small group of large organisations manage it at the moment.”
As of October 21, the project was led by seven partners, including the Woodland Trust, Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust, RSPB, Marine Conservation Society, PLAS Marine Special Area of Conservation, Whale and Dolphin Conservation and WWF.