National parks should lose planning powers, farmers say

The three park authorities cover the Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire coast and Snowdonia

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National parks should be stripped of their planning powers, according to the Farmers' Union of Wales.

The three park authorities covering the Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire coast and Snowdonia are responsible for planning decisions within their boundaries.

They have rejected claims they are more concerned with tourism than what people and farmers need.

The FUW also said giving local councils the powers would save money and mean more consistency in planning decisions.

Former FUW deputy president Glyn Powell, from Sennybridge, near Brecon, made the proposal which was overwhelmingly carried the union's quarterly Grand Council meeting in Aberystwyth.

He said it would be a first step towards abolishing the three National Park Authorities (NPAs).

'Undemocratic'

"There is an inconsistency in the way they operate and it is undemocratic," he said.

"They don't seem to appreciate the history and traditions and culture of Wales, and [the park authority] tends to be more concerned with tourism and incomers than the native population and agriculture generally."

Plumber Tyrone Williams said it is impossible to negotiate with national parks

Mr Powell said powers should be transferred to local authorities as the current system was both "irrational and ineffective".

The call has been supported by campaigners in Pembrokeshire who are unhappy with the planning system within their national park.

Tyrone Williams, a plumber and heating engineer from Newport, Pembrokeshire, has storage for his work on land which falls under the Pembrokeshire National Park's jurisdiction.

"They gave me full planning but then they put so many conditions on the planning that it was unbelievable and unworkable," he said.

"The thing is you cannot negotiate with them. It's time there was a change or time that there was a body that at least you could negotiate with them themselves."

Architect Rheinallt Evans said there was "a negative culture" when it comes to dealing with planning applications within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, as if it was "a museum where nothing should happen".

Farmers' 'benefit'

Last year, Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire MP Simon Hart claimed the national parks planning system was an obstacle to regeneration while three local councils have called for the authorities to be scrapped.

But Tegryn Jones, chief executive of the Pembrokeshire Coast NPA, told BBC Wales there was "a lack of understanding" about the work of the national parks and that "farmers benefited quite a bit from the work of the National Parks".

He added that he "was slightly surprised that the FUW was taking decisions that might be detrimental to some of their own members".

Mr Jones said 85% of applications submitted to the three NPAs are approved, roughly in line with statistics for other local planning authorities.

The Welsh government has been consulting on a Draft Planning Bill which could cut the number of planning authorities in Wales.

Carl Sargeant, the minister responsible for planning, said in a speech in January that he was encouraged by the willingness of Pembrokeshire Coast NPA and the county council to consider developing a single shared planning service.

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