Very pleased to be in Wales but worried about the possible perception from those who live outside Wales that it is not a friendly place to visit with the potential arrival of the Tourism Tax which is being consulted on this autumn.
Provided an insight into the new UK Government which will welcome Sir Robert Buckland MP as Secretary of State for Wales who hosted a roundtable at the Royal Welsh this year. He is Welsh and likely to be a strong ally. Also highlighted the other appointments to the Cabinet with an interest in rural affairs and the new Prime Minister who we will need to build bridges with. It is a worrying time for those businesses who have high energy costs – how will these be afforded and while we understand there will be support from government, will this be enough to support you to continue to grow and develop your business?
Offered personal insight from home in the Lizard Peninsula on the Helford Estuary in Cornwall. Challenging to encourage visitors to come and stay there – a long way from where most people live as driving will take up a day each way. Made reference to business rates and the challenge of covering these from the business. We have an over-supply of holiday accommodation in Cornwall and this is likely to only get worse over the next few years due to the likelihood of fewer visitors. Don’t want to shut the holiday accommodation in the winter which also results in losing essential staff who need the jobs.
CLA is continuing to lobby for a reduction in VAT for tourism related businesses. Have had a very busy year the last few years but concerned about the short-term future. Also concerned about Welsh Government’s drive to address the holiday home issue and pushing people away from Wales due to the impending taxes and charges.
Moving forward, the new Agriculture (Wales) Bill and Sustainable Farming Scheme will be significant for farmers. CLA actively engages with Ministers and politicians to highlight the challenges we face and also importantly suggests how policy can be improved. We actively work on policy and some things actively stand out e.g the 10% of farm that should be planted with trees. Suggest there is a better way to do this by thinking cross Wales – e.g. 80,000 hectares of land that could potentially be planted with trees in Wales.
Finally access – an important debate on where property rights will be centred over the next few years. 4.1m acres of open access land is available to the public. 144,000 miles of public rights of way – roughly half of this again is permissive rights of way. All this is available to the public and the issue really should be to allow the public to safely enjoy outdoor access. CLA should lead on this and propose solutions. Not helpful to look at anomalies: eg: where rarely a landowner has blocked a public right of way, and conversely where a dog-walker has been very aggressive to a farmer who asked him to put his dog on a lead.
Question on British Telecom’s analogue service
Member David Bodsworth – BT’s threat to turn off analogue service in 2025 with no plans to change copper wires to fibre. Imposition of mobile masts under ministry rules – have had this imposed on us. Note Charles has been very helpful regarding this.
Question on grey squirrels
What is happening in respect of grey squirrels that devastate woodlands? Response is that the genetic breeding will massively help with this and in the Lizard where they have been controlled it is very encouraging to see so many trees regenerating. Concerns about deer which is harder to manage. Need to join up with other NGOs and also the public perception of controlling squirrels is very difficult. There is a very positive PR message about seeing red squirrels and this should help economically with tourism
Question on access
There is an issue about public footpaths and health and safety – a recent case of a visitor suggesting that she had bruises from a horse. The Deputy President highlighted an example of a mass trespass on a large estate but ironically this has exemplary permissive access across the whole of the estate. CLA needs to be proactive in respect of this and provide a solution. Noted a large development in the south east where a large number of houses have been built. Limited access agreements have been set up and this is wrong despite the likelihood of landowners being open to discussing these. Need to recognise that some areas of land have to be for food production but there could always be the potential for access. Need to address the issue of why and how you own land – as the historical reasons for this are changing.
Point raised by member about water access and the conflict resolution of this – some good work has been carried out in respect of this but engaging with Welsh Government can be challenging. It is important for members and individuals to engage with politicians and in particular local government.
Parallel between Cornwall and West Wales in respect of local housing for local people. Less incentive for landowners to provide land for this. VV highlighted the fact that it is very difficult for local people to buy a home. Happily offer small amounts of land for local housing but it MUST be protected forever for those local buyers. IF these are then sold on the open market this is unfair. Need solutions.