North East Wales

Farmers oppose plans to extend Clwydian Range AONB

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Image caption Looking towards the Clwydian Range from Coed Mawr, Henllan, Denbighshire

Farmers have been urged to air their concerns over plans to extend official beauty spot status to countryside in Wrexham and Denbighshire.

The Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) wants to extend the Clwydian Range Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) to incorporate Llangollen and Dee Valley.

But farmers' union NFU Cymru is opposing the plans, and says more consultation is required.

CCW said the plans were not intended to impose restrictions on the area.

It has produced a draft designation order outlining the proposals formally, which is currently being advertised locally, and inviting public opinion.

That period ends next week, after which time the order is sent to the assembly government for a final decision by Environment Minister Jane Davidson.

NFU Cymru president Ed Bailey, who led the farmers' meeting at one of the farms affected by the proposals, urged anyone with concerns to respond by the 22 March deadline.

He said: "I am very concerned that the process of designation is being rushed and that the genuine concerns and questions that have been raised have not been answered.

"I think CCW is wrong not to have done an impact assessment of the proposal.

Nothing seems to have been done to weigh up the potential benefits against the possible disadvantages, and no assessment has been done as to whether the proposed designation is the most appropriate route to take or whether alternative options exist."

But CCW regional director Tim Jones has previously described the proposed AONB as a "good badge for some of the businesses to have within the area".

He said status attracts funding such as the assembly's sustainable development fund.

Last summer, the CCW started consulting on plans to extend the area to cover southern parts of the Clwydian Range, the Vale of Llangollen and parts of Wrexham and the Dee Valley.

Image caption Castell Dinas Brân gives far-reaching views over Llangollen and the Dee Valley

Currently, the landscape of the Clwydian Range stretches 160 sq km (62 sq m) from the Vale of Clwyd in the west to the foothills of the Dee estuary to the east, and from Prestatyn hillside in the north to the Nant y Garth pass in the south.

CCW is looking to incorporate Wrexham communities Esclusham and Ruabon as well as Llantysilio Mountains, the Vale of Llangollen and the Dee Valley as far as Corwen and Glyn Ceiriog.

It says the proposed extended area is of "outstanding quality, nationally and internationally important for their natural beauty and equally worthy of protection as an AONB".

At the close of a four-month consultation period in January, the CCW received 314 responses with some people concerned that the status may impose new regulations on landowners which the CCW denies.

"AONB designation does not interfere with land management practices and designation does not bring about new restrictions on agricultural activities," says the proposal document.

Last month, the CCW drew up its draft designation order for the public to consider.

Following another five weeks when views can be received, CCW then sends that order to the assembly government for a decision.

The NFU meeting is being held at the farm of Eifion Davies, chair of NFU Cymru Glyn Ceiriog branch, whose land is in the area of the proposals.

"Local farmers have numerous concerns regarding these proposals and my message to farmers, local businesses and the public is that we need more time to consider what is at stake," he said.

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