The Open Spaces Society, Britain’s leading pressure-group for the protection of common land, is disappointed that Welsh ministers have approved an application from Betws Common Holdings for nearly one mile of new fences on Betws Common, near Ammanford in Carmarthenshire.
Because the fence comprises works on common land which will prevent or impede access, the applicant needed the consent of Welsh Ministers under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006. The application was determined by planning inspector Joanna Burston on behalf of the ministers. The application was for two lengths of fencing, with cattle-grids, gates and stiles, and was made to prevent livestock from straying and in the interests of biosecurity. The Open Spaces Society, which is notified of all applications for works on common land, objected to the fences because they would impede public access to the common and be an eyesore in the open landscape. The public has a right to roam over the whole common. The other objectors included the West Glamorgan Commoners’ Association, the National Farmers’ Union, and some individuals.
The inspector conceded that the fences would restrict access to the land affected but did not consider that they ‘would have a significant adverse impact on public access to and enjoyment of the common land’.
She also considered them to ‘have a detrimental impact on the landscape to a certain extent’ but that ‘on balance the landscape has the capacity to accommodate the proposal without adversely affecting the common as a whole’. She therefore allowed the application.
Says Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society: ‘This is a disappointing decision. The inspector confirmed that she had had regard to the Welsh Government’s Common Land Consents Guidance, which recognises the many public benefits of common land, and she says that if the decision departs from the policy an explanation will be given. But she gives no explanation for any departure in granting consent. Clearly, we have a difference of opinion about the impact of fences, and it is sad that the common is to be further enclosed.’
For more information please visit: www.oss.org.uk