- A Poisonous Practice of Ignorance For Ever More Land, Sheep and CAP Payments...
Location: (OSGB36) Easting = 248288 Northing = 352867 Grid Ref = SH48285286 National Grid Field No = SH 4852 2886 Latitude = 53°3'4.31"N Longitude = 4°15'49.32"W Latitude = 53°3.0718'"N Longitude = 4°15.8219'"W Latitude = 53.051196 Longitude = -4.263699 Postcode = LL54 6HG
|:: video 1 ::||A Skylark Chick's Last Call|
|:: video 2 ::||As It Was|
|:: slides 2 ::||Apocalypse Now: Scorched Earth|
|:: video 3 ::||Bite The Hand That Feeds: No Respect for Rural Payments|
|:: slides 3 ::||Cover-Up|
|:: slides 4 ::||Drainage? - What Drainage?|
|Fenland or Permanent Grassland, - Which Is It?|
|Greening, GAEC, and (Complete) Non-Compliance|
...this time two farmers, both local, who together undertook to spray a wildlife-rich area of wet fenland and permanent grassland (which I witnessed), complete with numerous open drainage channels and a river (which is known and confirmed to contain otters, - a protected and endangered species), 40 days before they are allowed to under law (30th June) and without any heed whatsoever to the drainage channels, before mowing the area flat (including the skylarks, also protected, which were raising young fledglings amongst the dead marsh grass), ploughing it, and then running a roller over it for no other purpose than to abuse SFP and CAP payments, and to create a flattened wasteland of mud for sheep.
|21st May 2018:||field areas sprayed with herbicide (40 days before the earliest allowed date as set by law)1|
|27th - 28th June 2018:||field areas mown, - yellow/green tractor|
|29th June 2018:||baling / boundary, border, and buffer zone areas mown flat and deliberately destroyed|
|6th August 2018:||major trimming of boundary hedgerows and copse areas2|
|10th August 2018:||field areas ploughed and harrowed|
|18th August 2018:||further mechanized groundwork|
|29th - 30th August 2018:||area rolled, levelled, and compacted with a tractor-towed roller|
|4th September 2018:||area spread with fertilizer or similar, and seeded with a brassica / grass mix for sheep|
|5th September 2018:||further levelling and compacting with a tractor-towed roller|
|5th September 2018:||additional updates submitted to, and requested from, RPW, the EPA, NRW, and the Heddlu further to the original complaint|
|19th February 2019:||additional updates submitted to, and requested from, RPW, the EPA, NRW, Hywel Griffiths (AS, Plaid Cymru), and Lesley Griffiths (AM | AC, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs [ Gweinidog yr Amgylchedd, Ynni a Materion Gwledig ] further to the original complaint|
|22nd May 2019:||further spraying almost six weeks before the 30th June, this time on land adjacent to Gwynfaes by a blue tractor using a boom sprayer (details below)|
|on the 19th of May 2019, there was a sighting of a tractor with a white tank which I thought was involved in spraying. This was incorrect, - the tractor was actually taking the tank to a local quarry used by the farm as a place to discard their unwanted farm equipment and household goods, not to mention construction waste.
...however, there was spraying taking place at the time of this update, 11:12 hours on 22 May 2019, on a large field adjacent to Gwynfaes; so, yes, once again Pritchard & Jones are indeed giving RPW the middle-finger and spraying a good five weeks before they are allowed to by law, this time using a blue tractor with a boom sprayer.
A report has been submitted to RPW, with photographic and video evidence, and this has been followed-up by an update to Lesley Griffiths AM | AC, who was responsible for ensuring that sanctions were imposed on the farmer last year, and this matter has now been referred to the government's EIA department.
[ - click for full-size image, incident timeline, and video clip - ]there was also what appeared to be one of Gwynfaes' tractors engaged in spraying in the nearby orchards of the Pont Du vinyard a good two weeks ago and strong indications of the substance being a pesticide (a number of dead or clearly poisoned insects at the time - including bees, - just as happened around the same time last year).
|18th June 2019:||Another farmer, this time understood to be Gwernoer Farm, (B4418 en route to Nantlle from Talysarn) have now decided to get in on the act of destroying the floodplain and telling RPW where to stick their greening policies, too; this time caught in the act of spraying meadowland just below Tanyrallt using an orange tractor with boom sprayer (at least in this case only two weeks before they are allowed to by law). As with Gwnfaes, a report and evidence have both been submitted to RPW.|
|20th June 2019:||in a meeting with the Welsh government's EIA team, today, it transpired that there could be some interesting developments in the new Welsh Agriculture Bill (which will be separate from anything put together for England).
Many farmers, it seems, are concerned that there will a situation with no regulations following a British Exit from the EU (maybe even hoping for such as an exploitable opportunity); but the Welsh government have already made moves to pre-empt this and, amongst other changes, are looking to strengthen environmental protections whilst, at the same time, introducing financial incentives for farmers who have have retained and protected unimproved land and who have refrained from destroying eologically sensitive areas within their holdings
...so farmers making a point now of preserving existing habitats, implementing features like coppicing3 (within current guidelines and / or Glastir terms) and apiaries, using green manure in place of agro-chemicals to enhance soil quality, and implementing strict protection of waterways and the water table may well find themselves benefiting nicely from the new legislation, which is looking to be something considerably more than the current CAP system, where much is decided on what is on paper as opposed to in actual.
It is also looking as though the new payments system will be available to all land owners, too, and not just farmers; so small-holders to large-scale agrarian businesses will all be able to benefit from improving and protecting the environment in the process of managing their land, even if not eligible for the basic payments available to farmers.
|24th June 2019:||currently work in progress involving what appears and sounds to be hedge and tree coppicing, and in direct contravention of GAEC7a and 7c in the self-same area that was being sprayed on the 20th. This activity is banned until the end of August save for where a deroragation has been obtained from RPW for farmers sowing temporary grassland and oilseed rape. This is currently under investigation whilst the work is still ongoing, with a further report due to be submitted to RPW.
update: the work in progress was actually the destruction of a small wooded copse on the other side of the floodplain, just below Tanyrallt, involving the cutting-down of trees (many mature) and grubbing-up of old hedgerows, including the use of mechanical diggers to remove the stumps, with both the diggers and a tractor being used to grade and compact the land to try and hide the evidence.
This case is currently under investigation by NRW and RPW for multiple breaches of cross-compliance including the deliberate destruction of old dry stone walls and boundary features.
|7th July 2019:||I had an interesting conversation with one of the farmers cutting the grass on an area of fenland by the leisure centre and just below the B4418, on the outskirts of Penygroes, today. After the usual guff about farming being hard work (it is, but, speaking as someone who has worked on a farm previously, it is no harder than many other manually-intensive jobs that involve being outside, and working outside, in all weathers throughout the year), it transpires that the two main reasons for cutting the sward at this time of year are heather and that it is dry.
These arguments are both hollow: the council makes arrangements with the local farmers to full-cut the verges at the back-end of the year, with weather increasingly remaining consistently dry until October, so there is no reason why that field area could not be cut then. Their second argument is that of heather poisoning sheep, which is absolute total nonsense and proof, if any was needed, that this clown is no farmer: sheep and heather get along just fine.
There also appears to be good reasons involving environmental assessments why grass-cutting should not be happening on this land (or parcel of: the area that has been cut being a small parcel of a considerably larger area owned by Pont Ddu, with ownership of the parcel area seemingly belonging to Grŵp Cynefin, the housing association).
Disappointingly too, the person cutting the sward was driving one of Pont Ddu's tractors. Taken together with the orchard-spraying earlier on in the year, right about the time that something poisoned a large number of bees and other pollinators (just as also happened last year), and bearing in mind Pont Ddu's proud proclamations regarding environmentalism, these issues are of some concern; just as was the brutal cutting-back of the roadside verge at the foot of their drive at the beginning of the year followed, just recently, by the spraying of wildflowers along a wall section leaving nothing but an unsightly dead, brown, mass of vegetation. There is no need for this. None whatsoever.
|Further activities:||reports of illegal baiting and hunting of wildlife, sometimes with dogs, and indications of raptor persecution|
|sanctions have now been applied by Rural Inspectorate Wales, although there has been no confirmation of whether these sanctions have been applied to Pritchard, Jones, or both.
Lesley Griffiths AM | AC, Gweinidog yr Amgylchedd, Ynni a Materion Gwledig [ Minister for the Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs ] has confirmed that Natural Resources Wales have inspected the site, and whilst there is no need for further action as it stands, there is no question over the site being on level with the watertable and a soakaway, and thus unsuited to further improvement without the risk of serious waterway contamination, flooding, and damage to surrounding habitats.
Reed Warblers [ Acrocephalus scirpaceus ], Sedge Warblers [ Acrocephalus schoenobaenus ], and Grasshopper Warblers [ Locustella Nævia ] can also be found among, and nesting, in the reeds along the bank of the river, which would be fantastic news were it not for the ongoing threat of further destruction and spraying with agro-chemicals.
The Welsh government's EIA department and the NRW have, to date, completely and totally failed to protect this habitat, but this is influenced by a number of factors including (but not limited) to:
- their cases have to be uncontestable, so if work has already been completed on land it can be very difficult to determine whether or not that land was unimproved or not, plus existing plants on the site may not be enough to conclusively say whether or not a site has been worked, and clover (used in the key tests) will frequently colonize many areas (if allowed to) and give a positive on land having been worked even when it has not.
On the plus side, the EIA has access to extensive ærial reconaissance photographs and heat-maps, plus ground-radar records, and can determine whether land should have had an EIA screening application even if it has been improved, or should any evidence of the land being unimproved have been removed. A farmer can then be prosectuted even up to 7 years later (and ordered to implement remedial work) should it be determined that they destroyed an area of unimproved land.
DNA and soil-testing is also increasingly being used to determine cases, along with photo and video evidence from campaigners, environmentalists, and members of the public; not to mention the resources of, and checking by, local authorities, RPW, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Natural Resources Wales.
- the destroyed fenland area is not already, and was not previously, designated as a protected habitat; so this becomes a case of having to prove that this land should be protected or whether it would be better protected through a stricter observance of GAEC and Cross-Compliance.
- there is no legislation in place to protect the very habitats required by our protected species (unless the former condition applies); so it is considered unecessary to designate an area as protected just because of the presence of protected species, even if it is known that continued destruction of their habitats will result in their destruction too.
- under the circumstances, no checks are made to verify whether sites are semi-natural or not in the first place, ie: if a site is not already designated as being protected then that is that: short of direct intervention by llywodraeth Cymru [ the Welsh government ] an area, no matter how natural or unspoilt, essentially has no protection at all. That said, though, the government's EIA department, as detailed above, are able to determine whether a screening should have been applied to land that has been 'improved' and prosecute landowners and farmers, or even order resorative work, years after the initial destruction.
- whilst the presence of otters and skylarks, alone, within Dyffryn Nantlle is known, the EIA and NRW cannot give them any kind of special protection: their protection in undesignated nature areas comes down to little more than the Countryside and Wildlife Act in conjunction with GAEC and Cross-Compliance.
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Short URL: http://bit.do/DestroyedFenland