Introduction to North West Wales Area Statement
Creating opportunities to access and understand the value of the countryside so that communities can reconnect, understand, engage and influence the creative use of the local natural environment
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.
This theme challenges us to be more creative and active in the way communities understand, engage and influence their use and value of the local natural environment.
This includes how people can access green and blue spaces, what recreational opportunities exist on both land and water and how people learn about and understand their local and wider environment - and the different activities that take place there, such as farming, growing food and the links between the land, language, culture, and health. It also means that the way development is designed and built should link people to green and blue spaces including: parks, the coast, rivers, lakes, allotments and the wider countryside. For that to happen, people need the opportunity to access green transport such as cycleways and safe routes. Public spaces should meet the needs of local people of all ages and abilities so that whether they are at work or at home, a connection with nature can help them live a healthier life.
People should have the opportunity to better understand their local environment and the role it plays in their lives, history and culture. Information should be accessible and up to date. Reconnecting with nature means opportunities for being outside in nature and the environment becomes an important and desired part of people’s lives.
To facilitate the development of the Area Statement, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) held three workshops in North West Wales during July 2019 as well as a session for staff. Based on these discussions it was clear that there is support for an Area Statement theme focusing on reconnecting people with nature. Furthermore, the external audiences were also interested in life-long learning, so that element has been incorporated into this theme. The developed themes were taken back to the stakeholders for validation at our second round of engagement workshops in November and December 2019. More information and detail on this can be found in the Introduction to the Area Statement and in the Ways of Working Theme.
This theme links to the Natural Resource Policy priorities and well-being goals by improving green infrastructure and connecting people to their local natural environment. This will contribute to viable, safe and well-connected communities, consistent with the national goal of ‘A Wales of Cohesive Communities'. It also helps communities become more sustainable and resilient.
Through taking a place based approach and working with the people who live there, we recognise that communities are best placed to shape and understand local priorities, opportunities and find practical solutions that bring the widest benefits. This will ensure that local people benefit fully from natural resources in their locality. Areas with more accessible green space are associated with better mental and physical health. Many of our more deprived communities live close to natural assets from which they are disconnected.
Appropriately sited woodland creation has many benefits: carbon storage, natural flood risk management, water quality, noise and air pollution mitigation, species diversity, rural skills, jobs, recreation and can help contribute to health and well-being. Engaging people over the design and management of green spaces will ensure they meet the needs of current and future generations and help people reconnect with nature.
Woodland also provides provisioning, cultural and supporting services benefits
Improving access opportunities in, to and around inland water bodies such as rivers and lakes where appropriate for recreation and health benefits, including through improving existing public rights of way and where needed new routes.
Improving access opportunities to and around wetlands and bog habitats where appropriate. Better understanding of the barriers to access and perceptions about places that are out of reach of local people whether its due to transport, understanding, or value.
Improving access opportunities to upland areas such as mountains, moors, and heaths for all abilities where appropriate. Better understanding of the barriers to access and perceptions about places that are out of reach of local people whether it's due to transport, understanding, or value.
Linking coastal paths with our communities and other public rights of way networks and increasing active travel/multi-user routes, linking communities to natural resources where appropriate.
People value what they understand - by reconnecting people with their local natural environment they will gain a better understanding of the important role their local environment plays in their lives and the influence the environment has had on their history, language and culture. All of the opportunities identified below will only be supported at environmentally appropriate locations.
Creatively reconnecting people with their local environment to improve their physical and mental health - building confidence and self-esteem through all key life stages. Understanding and overcoming barriers to access, for example: understanding why few people from Holyhead, Gwalchmai and Rhyl regularly use their environment for work and play. Social prescribing and volunteering opportunities in the outdoors were also highlighted as opportunities for development during our workshop sessions by delegates, as was working with digital technology and virtual experiences as innovative ways of connecting people.
Creatively connecting people to their surroundings and immediate environment through integration into everyday life – facilitating the development of safe routes and encouraging people to walk their children to school rather than drive, green commuting via recreational routes/lonydd glas and the cycle network, engaging people with nature and the outdoors as part of their daily activities which all help to increase health and well-being.
Increased community participation and better access to land managed by NRW and partners - is important in ensuring that people are aware of their local environment and have an interest in decisions that threaten its quality, scale, and diversity. People want more of a say over how public woodland is managed and more of a community connection to how the NRW woodland estate on their doorstep is managed.
Development of recreation and access opportunities to water - understanding the issues and barriers to accessing water. Ensuring environmental issues are considered in the development of new opportunities will ensure people benefit from quality opportunities now and in the future.
Ensuring good connectivity of access opportunities for all abilities - integrating community access through active travel, ensuring that new developments incorporate and provide for a sustainable car-free walking and cycling infrastructure that people can use. This can be done through connecting and linking up with existing access opportunities e.g. improving access links between the coast path and the centre of Anglesey and improving links between parks, gardens and the wider countryside.
Ensuring traditional rural woodland craft skills are maintained - ensuring a range of local opportunities for formal and informal education and lifelong learning.
Highlighting successes - Llyn Parc Mawr in Newborough was identified as a recently funded outdoor classroom, built from local wood with a Forest Schools officer employed to engage local schools. Evaluating and exploring the potential to replicate this in other communities should be explored, particularly the emphasis on encouraging intergenerational sharing and learning. The Fens Forever Project was also highlighted as a good example of an opportunity being explored by partners to engage people with understanding the importance of cultural and behavioural change through improved habitat management and access to the Anglesey Fens.
We will work with the 'Ways of working' and the 'Reconnecting people with nature' theme sub groups to develop ways to measure success. All of the opportunities identified below will only be supported in environmentally appropriate locations. Stakeholders have told us that real success should be experienced by communities across the whole area in the following ways:
The approach to the North West Area Statement considers the benefits for both wildlife and people of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds. The make-up of the North West area includes economically disadvantaged areas. Improved access to public spaces, wildlife and woodland where appropriate can help boost health, well-being, and improve opportunities for education and work.
Linear access routes can create new verges and wildlife corridor habitats, increasing connectivity for people and wildlife. Creatively engaging people with their local environment will ensure access opportunities meet the needs of those who would benefit from them the most.
Through our engagement, stakeholders have given NRW a good understanding of their priorities to start to develop this theme, but we know this needs to be developed further through focus groups and then tested and expanded with the wider community as we implement our thinking collectively.
On 14th May 2020 NRW plans to hold another stakeholder meeting to bring together everyone who has contributed to this process to-date to review the opportunities and agree collaborative next steps for the North West Area Statement process.
We will establish theme subgroups to develop the area wide vision for this theme – with a broad remit and wide representation. We will identify potential partners and interested individuals/groups, gaps in knowledge and linkages with local strategies and action plans.
We will use the information gathered during the stakeholder engagement events (external, internal, with partners such as the National Parks Authority) to guide the activities of these thematic subgroups.
Each thematic subgroup will need to review what information and data we have so far, plan who we talk to next, look for theories of change, identify barriers and how to overcome and explore opportunities for appropriate action. The Area Statement will be an iterative document that will change and evolve over time. The subgroups will be responsible for determining when plans need to change and who needs to be involved in that process (the governance of the area statement).
The suggestions that are taken forward as ‘Lily Pad’ projects are designed to build stakeholder trust and cohesion through working on defined interventions. They use this experience to ‘leap’ on to the next, maybe less certain step in the Area Statement process that has been mapped out by the theme subgroups, and ‘learn through doing’ along the way. In this way, issues around stakeholder engagement and co-design and delivery might be better understood, and concerns addressed.
From this will be able to engage with and enthuse a broader group of stakeholders beyond the wider environmental sector in a targeted way and with a stronger focus on involving and engaging local groups and individuals. This could mean a variety of approaches, including: social media, traditional media, community meetings, drop-in sessions and the strengths of our partners so that we’re all working together to deliver the Area Statement vision and ambitions.
Improving mixed native woodland cover close to where people live and work will help reverse the decline in biodiversity and provide woodland habitat connectivity benefits. Woodlands and forests are good for wildlife, they help reduce noise pollution and benefit air quality.
Urban tree planting within new developments and in parks and gardens can be a cost effective way of addressing deteriorating air quality and rising urban temperatures.
Incorporating or embedding access to the countryside in everyday life through encouraging active travel and introducing green spaces into development planning will help reduce car use, congestion and carbon pollution, making our communities safer and more pleasant places to live.
Access to green space can contribute to the physical and mental health of the population of North West Wales. Accessible route networks, parks, gardens and the wider countryside can all play an important role in improving health and well-being. Active Travel and safe routes to schools can help ensure that access to the natural environment becomes a part of everyday life.
We welcome opportunities for the public to engage with us at any stage of the Area Statement process. We plan to hold community drop in sessions and workshops during 2020 to help us develop research, look into opportunities and talk to us about your community ideas and consider how they might be funded.
There is also a feedback form and an Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org should you wish to write to us with your ideas.