Introduction to South East Wales Area Statement
Image by Luke Maggs
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.
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For updates on what’s open, see our page on visiting our sites during the coronavirus pandemic.
The initial work carried out under the 'Ways of Working' strategic theme has been to facilitate the Area Statement process itself. The Area Statement process has been designed with ways of working, including the principles of SMNR at its core. We have prioritised collaboration, integration and involvement throughout this process. Throughout each phase of the process, we have sought to understand more about the ways in which we work together, learn from what we have done and use this learning to inform the next phase. This approach has been well-received by stakeholders who appreciate and share a commitment to doing things together differently. During each phase of the Area Statement process we focused on a different aspect of practice and developed ways of working which allowed us to explore doing things differently.
The risks to ecosystem and community resilience have been identified under each strategic theme of the South East Area Statement. The risks associated with the ways in which we work together differently underpin all three of the other strategic themes, as a failure to work in a more joined-up way will prove detrimental to our capacity to make best use of our resources in place.
Image provided by Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council
Under the 'Ways of Working' strategic theme, we are thinking about how we can invoke a change in culture across place and how we work together differently. While the actions of the other three strategic themes are underpinned by ways in which we can work together differently, this strategic theme focuses solely on supporting partners across Gwent to develop and implement innovative, collaborative ways of working and to capture learning to inform ongoing progress.
The fully integrated vision for South East has ways of working embedded throughout and is detailed in full here:
Our water is clean, our soils are healthy, our air is fresh and our landscapes are living. Nature is valued and biodiversity enhancements are embedded in decision-making. Our habitats and species are thriving, biodiversity is maximised and wildlife is abundant.
Opportunities to develop a more a circular economy are realised; with resources kept in use for as long as possible, extracting the maximum value whilst in use, then products and materials are recovered and regenerated at the end of each service life. Education and skills development provide the opportunity for new jobs and innovation, cost savings for businesses and the ability to strengthen our supply chains, improving our local economic resilience.
Our ecosystems are resilient to change and threat. Partners work collaboratively to address the five drivers of biodiversity loss at the regional scale (habitat loss and degradation, climate change, excessive nutrient load and other forms of pollution, Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS) and over-exploitation and unsustainable use) by identifying the root cause of issues and taking collaborative, preventative approaches towards reducing their impact on species, habitats and people. Nature based solutions are effectively and efficiently reducing the pressure on our assets and services (e.g. grey infrastructure such as sewerage network, flood risk assets and emergency services).
Biodiversity is protected, enhanced and resilient to a changing climate, water and air quality is good, soils are healthy and ecological connectivity is maximised. Opportunities to sequester carbon and decrease greenhouse gas emissions incorporate biodiversity as a fundamental and underlying principle. Conflicts between ‘action for climate’ and ‘action for biodiversity’ are anticipated and avoided - for example, tree canopy cover is increased where appropriate to do so and not in locations that would have an adverse effect on European sites.
Partners in Gwent working collaboratively to protect and improve health and well-being by connecting people, communities and service delivery to nature for the benefit of both people and the environment. Together, we develop a sustained knowledge, understanding and interaction with nature and realise the multiple benefits that nature can provide. The value of nature for society and economy is reflected in decision-making and public spend.
A globally responsible Wales
Support for communities to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions has been distributed in a socially just way. Transport is carbon neutral. Carbon sequestration and decarbonisation activity is a vital and integrated part of our local green economy, providing multiple benefits within and for our communities and supporting the localised green economy.
When young people are connected to nature, it has positive impacts on their education, physical health, emotional well-being and personal and social skills. Learning about nature helps to develop active, responsible, ethical citizens.
A prosperous Wales
Plentiful, well-functioning, high quality green spaces are driving inward investment and increasing local economic resilience. Public transport is accessible and active travel possible. People have good knowledge of their local environment, social connections high are and public/community green assets are shared. Vibrant natural spaces increase the demand for green skills, provide opportunities for lifelong learning and volunteering and further sustainable economic ventures boosting and supporting the local green economy.
The natural environment provides employment which sustains communities across Gwent. Employment in the farming, forestry, fisheries, tourism and recreation industries is thriving and sustainable.
A healthier Wales
Local green spaces and approaches to their management and health interventions are combining to ensure that Gwent is healthier. Nature and the outdoors are a mainstream part of people’s lives and ‘the system’ (healthcare, planning, education, etc.). Nature-based solutions become the normal approach. Organisations are working collaboratively to make this happen (e.g. Natural Health System). People have access to safe natural spaces in which to exercise, play, grow food, unwind and relax. Green routes for active travel are available to all from an early age and healthy behaviours are the norm. There are less cars and cleaner air. Children feel inspired, safe and encouraged to play outside. Communities benefit from increased physical activity, better mental health and the prevention of chronic health conditions (e.g. obesity, Type 2 diabetes). This means there is less ill-health and less difference in healthy life expectancy across Gwent.
A Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language
Vibrant local green spaces are expressive, fun and creative. They are designed for and by residents and are reflective of Welsh culture and identity, providing opportunities for creativity, arts, sport and recreation, boosting tourism opportunities. Our landscapes are connected, healthy and contributing positively to our natural heritage.
A Wales of cohesive communities
People feel more connected to the environment and to each other, have access to quality local green spaces and know where they can go and what they can do there. Traffic accidents are reduced. Communities are involved in local green space design and maintenance, creating desirable places to socialise with each other, instilling local pride, safety and community identity.
A resilient Wales
The wildlife, habitats, landscapes and seascapes of Gwent are a source of inspiration and enjoyment for people who live and work here. They are healthy and thriving, providing essential natural benefits to the residents and visitors to the region.
A more equal Wales
Vulnerable people are adequately protected from the effects of climate change. Nature-based solutions to climate adaptation contribute towards increase in local resilience to the impacts of climate change. Communities are educated about climate risk and active in designing and implementing the response. Communities are more resilient to rising energy and transport costs through improved efficiency, tackling fuel poverty, active travel and more local renewable energy generation.
Local green space is affordable and accessible in our most deprived communities who are also at a greater risk of experiencing impacts from environmental hazards and social exclusion. Local green spaces are safe, connect people, tackle exclusion and boost skills and confidence.
o Provides a blueprint for future collaborative working across the region
o Outlines a strong vision, shared priorities and a commitment to change adapt and harmonise certain working practices across the public sector by incorporating learning from the strategic themes
o Provides a robust basis on which to inform supplementary planning guidance for the region
Image by Luke Maggs
All stakeholders were invited to shape their own involvement in the South East Area Statement. Stakeholder mapping was ongoing throughout the process and we did not attempt to be exhaustive but meaningful.
Initially, we looked at Gwent as a collection of distinctive and interconnected geographical landscapes to produce a common evidence base in the form of landscape profiles. This approach was developed collaboratively with key stakeholders who have significant experience of looking at the region in this way.
A themed network approach was also developed collaboratively with key stakeholders in Gwent to be as useful and accessible in terms of involvement and integration as possible and reflects the working arrangements of place.
Towards the end of 2019, we brought themed networks and landscape profile panels (often but not always the same individuals) together for facilitated, focused conversations with a wider stakeholder group to reach a “consensus for action” beneath each of the strategic themes.
Feedback from one of our themed workshops:
“Thank you for the opportunity I have had to be part of this process, which has been the answer to my concerns… on which I have campaigned for many years”
- Friends of the Earth local campaigner
The outcomes under each of the four strategic themes will deliver the Area Statement vision for South East. While each theme has its own vision for South East, each is part of the same overarching approach to delivering the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources in place.
The South East Area Statement is representative of more collaborative, integrated and involved ways of working. It is a representation of the work we have done in Gwent over the past two years to strengthen the ways we work together differently, within our own organisations and as partners.
In South East, we set out to produce an Area Statement which informs internal and external planning at the appropriate scale and helps stakeholders to consider ways of working together differently when doing so. The Area Statement process is adaptive and will help to explore and shape aspirational ways of working.
Themed networks will continue to focus on working together differently to build ecosystem resilience. Each network will work together to develop a common evidence base as well as facilitate preventative interventions over the longer term.
If you would like to get involved in the delivery of the actions listed here, contribute to the developing themed network, or share your own images and stories of how nature has impacted your own health and well-being, please contact us.