Introduction to North West Wales Area Statement

These Area Statements summarise discussions from the last couple of years. We are continuing engagement on Area Statements and are adapting our plans for future events and workshops due to the coronavirus pandemic. Please use the feedback boxes on each Area Statement page to find out more.

Most of the car parks and trails in our woodlands and nature reserves are open.

For updates on what’s open, see our page on visiting our sites during the coronavirus pandemic.

About this Area


The area is made of a wonderful landscape of extensive upland and coastal areas, together with intervening lowlands and settlements.  Snowdonia National Park, ‘Eryri’, covers the main upland spine of mountains, with further upland moors to the east in Conwy. Coastal areas include the Llŷn Peninsula, much of which is included within the Llŷn Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the Isle of Anglesey, whose coast is mostly included in the Anglesey AONB.  Rural lowlands in Arfon, Anglesey, Dwyfor and inland Conwy contrast with a highly developed northern coast along major transport routes.

As well as providing us with this wonderful varied landscape, the natural environment helps to keep us happy, healthy and supports our economy, however many of the ecosystems within our natural environment are in decline. There is a need to find more sustainable ways to manage, protect and enhance these natural assets so that we, and future generations can continue to enjoy the important benefits provided.

The UK National Ecosystem Assessment (UK NEA) has categorised the whole of the UK into eight ecosystems or broad habitats to produce a framework and evidence base of our natural resources.  These eight broad habitats provided the evidence base for the Natural Resources Wales (NRW) SoNaRR report.  The Office of National Statistics (ONS) is also using the eight ecosystem categories to produce draft natural capital accounts for the UK. 

The eight ecosystem categories cover the whole of Wales and allow us to take a place-based approach to gathering information on the natural resources and ecosystem benefits in each area and compare results against UK averages. 

The North West Wales Area Statement considers seven of the eight categories, Marine is covered in the Marine Area Statement, although NRW recognises that the coast is the interface between the two and that actions taken on land affect the Marine. See the UK National Ecosystem Assessment

Bangor Pier and view of Snowdonia in the background

Process


NRW started the Area Statement process by looking at the Welsh Government’s Natural Resources Policy. We also examined the priorities that had been used for NRW’s Commissioning Plans in 2018 that were used to inform the challenges for the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources funding round. We then held an internal brainstorm session with our management team to look at the specific issues affecting North West Wales, focusing on what is locally relevant from the Natural Resources Policy (NRP) as well as any challenges and opportunities. We also considered information from the State of Natural Resources Report (SoNaRR) on ecosystems and their resilience, risks to the benefits they provide and the well-being assessments plans and priorities that emerged through the Public Service Boards.

With the help of an external, independent facilitator (the Wellbeing Planner) NRW held two rounds of workshops, the first round in July 2019 followed by a second round in November and December 2019, which built on the initial collaboration.

During the first round of workshops the objective was to improve the general understanding of the emerging themes in North West Wales, without necessarily expecting all participants to agree; to actively listen to those taking part and not try to persuade them to change their minds and finally to uncover the issues that engage local people in relation to the Natural Resource Policy. The events were held in local community venues using local businesses where possible, spread across the geographical area to ensure that we brought local economic benefit while adopting a plastic-free approach to refreshments. The emerging themes were used to stimulate the discussion and acquire intelligence and stakeholders’ visions for the themes and potential actions required. 

For the second round of engagement, we wanted to inform stakeholders about progress we’d made and capture insights around the challenges and barriers to co-producing a resilient environment. Together with stakeholders we began to explore potential options and actions to take forward the Area Statement for North West Wales. We particularly wanted to address a perceived geographical gap in events, so we held an event in Abergynolwyn to engage an area that identified itself as marginal. Stakeholders acknowledged that they often associated themselves more with Machynlleth (local town) and Aberystwyth (where the local hospital provision is located) in Mid Wales, rather than North West Wales. In addition, we also attended various established groups such as Local Access Forums, Farmers Union Meetings and the Snowdonia National Park Board.

We recognised that we are all in this together, so we made sure that we adapted our ways of working, making sure that the principles of co-production were at heart of decisions made in developing the North West Area Statement.  Some of the feedback we’ve had confirms what we believed, that this was the right thing to do:

“I came sceptical, saw it was kept open and everyone was involved”

“I thought that we would come and get told what it was and what we had to do”

“People have cancelled meetings to be here”

“It’s been a buzz”

“Other aspects of the new legislation still feel like a closed shop, it’s really good NRW appear to be listening”

“This venue says a lot about NRW”

“This has felt very outward looking”

This Area Statement provides a reflection of the work we have all done in North West Wales. This has been a different way of working - a journey of integration, listening, evidence gathering, local engagement and collaboration. The journey has been the key aspect of this work, working with partners, new and old to create a shared vision for how Wales' natural resources can be managed to deliver more for local communities, the economy and the environment. We have taken on board stakeholder views, so the Area Statement identifies the collective opportunities and priorities that we need to address to build the resilience of our ecosystems and support sustainable management of the natural resources. It will set out actions that NRW, and our partners, will take forward to address the opportunities we have identified.

Being part of this valuable engagement process with the people and business of North West Wales has allowed us to see the picture from a different angle. We appreciate that we can’t always provide answers to all the questions asked but, instead, we can work together to achieve worthwhile projects that benefit both the environment and people living in this valuable area.


Quotes from workshop participants:

 “This definitely feels different for everyone, the venues, the way of discussion, it’s changing our relationship”

“It feels messier than what we’re used to which is hard, but it feels great”

“Its been so valuable just sitting round tables with each other finding out what we all do, finding opportunities to learn from each other”

“We need to get the community to interact with the environment but also take responsibility too”

“I get the message – this isn’t just NRW’s this is everyone’s”

“We’ve got the what now, next we need the how and the where”

“Now NRW put your money where your mouth is”

NRW has involved as many sectors as possible to capture the widest range of views and expertise. This will reflect the current network in the area, which has really helped us where these networks are strong. But we also acknowledge there are groups whom we have not yet been able to reach.

Bringing together different views from different people was a vital part of what we set out to do. We were pleased see the common view that the themes we proposed at the start: ‘Sustainable land management’, ‘Climate adaptation and mitigation’, ‘Reconnecting people’ and ‘Resilient ecosystems’ were agreed by everyone attending the stakeholder workshops. External groups were also interested in life-long learning and, as such, this has been incorporated in to the ‘Reconnecting people with nature’ theme. Further feedback from our stakeholders gave us the remaining theme ‘Sustainable Economy’.

 


North West Wales themes


Our stakeholders identified two cross cutting themes during the development of the Area Statement which were Ways of working, which is the heart of everything we are trying to do, and Climate and nature emergency, which mirrors the Welsh Government’s declaration of a climate and a nature emergency. It also supports the climate and nature emergencies declared across North Wales by Local Authorities and NRW’s own underlying priorities for 2020/21 (mitigating the impacts and effects of the climate and mitigating the impacts and effects of the nature emergencies).

The other themes are:-

Next steps


NRW recognise that some stakeholders, such as Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), have struggled to put the same time into all of the Area Statements, especially where they cover more than one statement area. We also recognise that there were some gaps in our initial stakeholder analysis, such as young people and the need to involve them was raised by our stakeholders at several events.  Other sectors might not yet see the relevance of our work, so we need to refine ways of targeting key messages that engage other sectors in understanding that the environment underpins everything.  This is the first iteration of the Area Statement, it is a summary of our conversations to date and an offer for others to continue to work with us to help find solutions. For example, we are aware that our engagement with wider sets of stakeholders and communities is something that we need to take forward once this first iteration is published, and we would welcome input and ideas from anyone who can help.  We are also putting on some free training sessions on asset-based community development and co-production for interested stakeholders and our own staff.

A further large workshop is planned for May 2020 where we will be looking at and developing the identified opportunities under each theme, together we need to prioritise and decide where we will focus everyone's efforts and how we measure success.  It will be a chance for all of us to review where we have come from, prioritise the opportunities and continue to plan out more detail under each emerging area of work. We will establish focus groups to look for and plan collaborative solutions and potentially develop some mixed geographical delivery groups and ways to engage wider within the community – any expertise or offers of help to work on this would be gratefully accepted.  We will also explore the need to establish an overall approach to governance of the groups and the process and set up a small think tank to regularly challenge and influence the North West Wales approach.

The Area Statement process will continue to develop year on year as we collectively work together, learn more about the priorities and understand what people can deliver.  The Area Statement and themes are adaptive and need to be continually revised and improved as we deliver, build more knowledge and evidence, reflect, learn and expand our collective skills and knowledge.

The Area Statement only supports activities where adverse effects on internationally (and nationally) designated sites can be avoided.

“Now NRW put your money where your mouth is”.

“In terms of a twelve months horizon, I can’t put enough emphasis on the need to plan. There is a huge danger of getting carried away with enthusiasm and rushing into a load of different initiatives. I think we should take the opportunity to just perhaps put some ideas together, step back, see how they integrate, and see how we can better maximise the resources that we have, in order to be able to start to deliver going forward. If we can do the planning, then I think the 10 year and 50 year stuff will naturally follow that.”

- Tom Jenkins, Head of Forest Research Wales, Llanfairfechan Workshop 18 July 2019

Criccieth Castle and Cardigan Bay

Maps of the area

Please note that our maps are not accessible for people using screen readers and other assistive technology. If you need this information in an accessible format, please contact us.

North West Wales boundary map

Broad habitats - North West Wales (PDF)

  • Enclosed farmland 
  • Marine
  • Mountains
  • Moorland
  • Heath
  • Open water
  • Wetlands  floodplains
  • Semi-natural grassland
  • Urban
  • Woodlands

Protected areas - North West Wales (PDF)

  • Local Nature Reserves
  • National Nature Reserves
  • Sites of Special Scientific Interest
  • Wetlands of International Importance
  • Special Protection Areas
  • Special Areas of Conservation
  • Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • National Park

National Forest Inventory North West Wales (PDF) 

  • Shows areas of forest and Welsh Government Woodland Estate

Water Framework Directive - Rivers Waterbodies and Bathing Water Compliance (most recent available data March 2020) (PDF)

  • Areas of good, moderate and poor water quality in rivers, lakes and seas in North East Wales 

Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation in North West Wales 2019 (PDF)

  • Shows areas most deprived in North West Wales

Areas for Recreation in North West Wales

Population Density in North West Wales

Browse interactive map of more data about Wales natural environment  

How to contact us

We welcome opportunities for engagement at any stage of the Area Statement process.

Our Email address is: northwest.as@cyfoethnaturiolcymru.gov.uk should you wish to write to us.

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