The Future of Designated Landscapes in Wales

24 March 2017

Article by Dr Katy Orford, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

A debate is due to be held in Plenary on 28 March 2017 on the review of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This blog post outlines the 2015 review of designated landscapes and the emerging work in determining the future role and vision for Welsh landscapes.

Designated Landscapes in Wales

Clwydian range landscape

Image from flickr by Andrew. Licensed under the Creative Commons

Nationally important landscapes in England and Wales are designated as National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.

Designated Landscapes cover around 25% of Wales. Wales is home to 4 AONB’s (Anglesey, Clwydian Range & Dee Valley, Llyn Peninsula and Gower – additionally the Wye Valley AONB spans England and Wales) and 3 National Parks (Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire Coast and Snowdonia). In 1952 Pembrokeshire Coast National Park was designated as the first coastal National Park in the UK, and in 1956 the Gower was designated as the first AONB in the UK.

The current management and purpose of National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Currently, National Parks in Wales are managed by National Park Authorities (NPAs) which are the statutory planning authority. These nationally important landscapes have protection through planning law. National Parks have two statutory purposes:

  • To conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of their areas; and
  • To promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of their areas to the public.

Where conflict arises between these two statutory purposes the NPA shall attach greater weight to the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area under the ‘Sandford Principle’.

AONBs are areas designated for the purpose of conserving and enhancing their natural beauty and differ from National Parks in that they lack the statutory purpose to promote opportunities for the public to enjoy and understand the area. An AONB designation has the same status in planning as a National Park but while a National Park may carry out its own planning functions, for an AONB this will be done by the relevant local planning authority.

Review of Designated Landscapes

In 2014, the then Minister for Natural Resources, Carl Sargeant commissioned a group of experts (Professor Terry Marsden, John Lloyd-Jones and Dr Ruth Williams) to undertake a Review of Designated Landscapes. In launching the review the Minister highlighted its timeliness considering that the statutory purposes of National Parks and AONBs were originally set out in legislation that is almost 70 years old. The purpose of the review was to ‘ensure that our designated landscapes are best equipped to meet current and future challenges while building on their internationally recognised status’. Changes considered included whether there should be a move towards a single designation.

Key recommendations of the Review of Designated Landscapes (2015) to the Welsh Government include:

  • There should not be a single designation so that both the AONB and National Park designation is retained in future;
  • The names of “National Parks” and “Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty” should be retained and collectively referred to as the “National Landscapes of Wales”;
  •  There should be three interlocking statutory purposes for both the National Parks and AONBs; these are:
    • To conserve and enhance the distinctive landscape and seascape qualities of the area (the Conservation Purpose);
    • To promote physical and mental well-being through the enjoyment and understanding of the landscape of the area (the Human Well-being Purpose); and
    • To promote sustainable forms of economic and community development based on the management of natural resources and the cultural heritage of the area (the Sustainable Resource Management Purpose)
  • There should be a new single Statutory Duty; ‘to contribute to the delivery of the three purposes of the National Landscapes’;
  • The Sandford Principle, confirming the primacy of the conservation purpose, should be applied across all the designated landscapes; and
  • The National Assembly for Wales, as it evolves its own internal architecture, should consider the relationship between itself and the National Landscapes of Wales to maximise scrutiny and accountability.

Previous blog posts further outline the review and the emergent recommendations; A Review of Designated Landscapes in Wales: National Parks and AONBs, Review of Designated Landscapes: Recommendations from Stage 1 and What next for National Landscapes in Wales?.

Following the review, the Future Landscapes Working Group was set up by the Minister for Natural Resources. Led by Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM, the group involves representatives of the National Parks, AONBs, environmental groups, business and local government to explore the recommendations. Furthermore, it would allow consideration of these recommendations in the context of new legislation; the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 (which were enacted subsequent to the review).

The Terms of Reference (PDF 195.4KB) for the Future Landscapes Working Group sets out the membership and the group’s plan to advise on the themes from the review. The report, which is due to be published imminently, is expected to describe the future role and vision of designated landscapes in Wales. In an interim letter (PDF 62.6KB) to the then Minister in May 2016 prior to the Assembly elections, the Chair stated ‘It is clear that new ways of working will need to be adopted.’

Children’s Advocacy Services: No more false starts

23 March 2017

Article by Sian Hughes, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

On 29 March 2017, the Assembly will debate the Children and Young People and Education Committee’s report of the inquiry into statutory advocacy provision (PDF 519KB], published on 2 February 2017.  The Welsh Government published their response [PDF 87KB] on 22 March 2017.

What is advocacy?

This is a picture of a child

Image from maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com. Licensed under the Creative Commons

The Welsh Government’s 2003 National Standards for the Provision of Children’s Advocacy Services [PDF 498KB] said:

Advocacy is about speaking up for children and young people. Advocacy is about empowering children and young people to make sure that their rights are respected and their views and wishes are heard at all times. Advocacy is about representing the views, wishes and needs of children and young people to decision-makers, and helping them to navigate the system.

There are statutory requirements for local authorities to provide independent advocacy services for looked after children and young people, care leavers and children in need, initially under the Children Act 1989 and more recently incorporated into the Social Services and Well-Being Act (2014).

Latest Welsh Government statistics provide an indication that 28,105 children were potentially eligible for statutory advocacy services in 2016. Of these 5,660 were looked after children; 3,060 were on the child protection register; and 19,385 were children in need.

Why it’s important

The importance of looked after children being able to access independent advocates was elevated when the Waterhouse Inquiry report (published in 2000) found that the victims of decades of widespread sexual and physical abuse of children in north Wales care homes had not been believed or listened to. It recommended that all looked after children should have access to an independent advocate.

In the Missing Voices, Right to be Heard report of July 2014, the then Children’s Commissioner for Wales said:

There is no starker reminder than the emergence of the fresh allegations of historic abuse in North Wales and the establishment of Operation Pallial and the Macur Review. The current prominence of historic child abuse scandals demonstrates the immediate need to get advocacy right for children and young people today. Advocacy enables us to create a climate where we listen to children and young people, a culture where we can better protect our children. In short, advocacy safeguards children and young people.

The National Youth Advocacy Service told the Children, Young People and Education Committee:

Statutory advocacy is fundamentally a provision to protect and safeguard the most vulnerable children and young people in Wales. We must not lose sight into the history of why advocacy is so critical in Wales which was a direct result of many children being abused whilst in the care of local authorities. The recommendations from Sir Ronald Waterhouse report; “Lost in Care” are still as relevant today as it was in 2000.

Reports since Waterhouse

Between 2003-2014 there have been seven reports setting out concerns about advocacy services and how best to deliver them in Wales.

Between 2008 and 2010, the Children and Young People Committee of the Third Assembly published three reports and made a range of recommendations and repeated calls about the provision of advocacy services for looked after children and other vulnerable groups of children.  These can be seen on the National Assembly website:

The Children’s Commissioner for Wales was established in 2001, the first in the UK. In 2003, the then Children’s Commissioner published his Telling Concerns report [PDF 720KB] which included a review of advocacy provision. During the period 2012-2014, the new Children’s Commissioner went on to publish three reports and made a series of recommendations in respect of statutory advocacy services.

The 2014 report said that the quality and quantity of commissioning of the provision of advocacy services differed markedly between local authorities and:

Without significant change this local model of commissioning is likely to perpetuate the well documented shortcomings of current provision. It is time to move towards a national model of commissioning that would hopefully provide the focus, impetus, and accountability structures that appear to me to be lacking at the moment.

The reports published by the Children’s Commissioner led to work being undertaken by the  Welsh Government and a Ministerial Expert Group on Advocacy being established in 2014 to develop a proposal for a National Approach to Statutory Advocacy Services.

What the Committee found

The Committee heard that there had been a frustrating and unacceptable delay in agreeing and implementing the National Approach to Statutory Advocacy Services. However, the Committee also heard that progress in agreeing the National Approach was being made during the course of the inquiry.   The WLGA said they were sure that local authorities would have an agreed all-Wales approach to commissioning advocacy (the ‘National Approach) in place by June 2017.  The Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children, Carl Sargeant said that this was his expectation and he had made it clear that there would be sanctions if there is a failure to deliver.

Implementation of the National Approach had been costed at between £1 and £1.1 million, including an ‘active offer’.  An active offer is where all children and young people are made aware of advocacy services and how they could access an advocate at the point at which they entered the statutory care system.  The Welsh Government had allocated £500-550,000 towards these costs.  While recognising the competition for available resources, the WLGA confirmed that there was a level of commitment to finding the remaining funding for the National Model.

The Committee makes eight recommendations in its report, including that the Welsh Government should:

  • Monitor and ensure that all local authorities have actively signed up to the National Approach by January 2017;
  • Monitor annually local authority expenditure on statutory advocacy services and that it is funded in line with the population needs assessment analysis; and
  • Commissions an independent review of progress at the end of the first year of implementation of the National Approach;
  • Provide a detailed update to the Committee on progress in implementing the ‘National Approach’ in June 2017.

The Silent Killer. Assembly Members to debate Ovarian Cancer report.

23 March 2017

Article by Sarah Hatherley, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is often described as ‘the silent killer’ because symptoms are not well-known or often mistaken, meaning the condition is usually discovered in the late stages when successful treatment is much more difficult.

Ovarian cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer death for women in Wales, with 238 deaths in 2014.

The National Assembly’s Petitions Committee considered a petition submitted by retired palliative care nurse, Margaret Hutcheson who called on the Welsh Government to support yearly screening for ovarian cancer. The petition gathered 104 signatures online. On 9 February 2017, the Petitions Committee published its report. Assembly Members will debate the report in plenary on 27 March 2017.

The Committee’s report

Whilst the Committee did not support the petitioners’ ambition for a national screening programme using the CA125 blood test, they did agree on the importance of early detection, recognising the significance of diagnosing ovarian cancer at the earliest stage. The Committee heard that unfortunately many ovarian cancers are diagnosed at the late stage, meaning that many women will not be treated until it is too late, when their treatment options may be more limited. The Committee said they wanted to see improved screening to permit early diagnosis of ovarian cancer but concluded, that at the moment, there is no screening test reliable enough to use for ovarian cancer:

The Committee took evidence on the effectiveness of the CA125 blood test, and on other potential detection methods, but concluded that there simply is not currently the weight of evidence to conclusively prove that lives would be saved by introducing an annual screening programme. However, they recommended that the potential for such a programme should be kept under review.

There are various trials looking at ways to prevent and detect ovarian cancer earlier.

Cancer Screening

Cancer screening involves testing apparently healthy people for signs that could show that a cancer is developing. Current cancer population screening in the UK includes breast, cervix and bowel cancer screens. In order for a screening test to be made available on the NHS, the test has to be proven to be accurate and safe. There are ongoing studies to find a general population screening test for ovarian cancer but until their work is completed, ovarian cancer screening will not be available in Wales, or any part of the UK. The Welsh Government has made clear that it would not introduce an ovarian cancer screening programme unless it is recommended by the UK National Screening Committee, who provide independent, expert advice to all UK Ministers about screening.

The CA125 blood test

CA125 is known as a tumour marker for ovarian cancer. A tumour marker is a chemical given off by cancer cells that circulates in the bloodstream. Women with ovarian cancer tend to have higher levels of CA125 in their blood than women who do not have ovarian cancer. But CA125 can also be raised for other non-cancerous reasons. So the test is not completely reliable. The CA125 blood test can detect ovarian cancer, but research has shown that it is not accurate enough to be used as part of a screening programme because positive results could also be due to other conditions.

UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS)

The UKCTOCS trial, which commenced in 2001, involved 200,000 women aged 50-74 years. It is a randomised trial in which women taking part are allocated randomly for screening with either CA125 or ultrasound, or to a control group who are followed up without screening. The results of the UKCTOCS trial were published in December 2015. They indicated that screening based on an annual blood test may help reduce the number of women dying from ovarian cancer by around 20 per cent. The result was similar for women who received an ultrasound. However, the results included a large ‘confidence interval’ – effectively the size of the uncertainty in the result. This was due to the low numbers of women who have so far developed and died from ovarian cancer in the trial – about 650 out of 200,000 – and means that the range of possible benefit could be anywhere between 0 and 40 per cent. Therefore, the study concluded that longer follow-up is needed to establish more certain estimates of how many deaths from ovarian cancer could be prevented by screening. As a result it will continue to run for another 3 years.

Committee Recommendations

While the Committee concluded that it could not recommend that annual ovarian cancer screening be introduced, it did make 3 recommendations:

  • That the potential for a national screening programme be kept under review by the Welsh Government;
  • That more work should be done with GPs to ensure that women who present with symptoms of ovarian cancer are referred for appropriate tests; and
  • More should be done to improve awareness of ovarian cancer including identifying common symptoms and advising when people should seek medical help.

Better ways to screen for ovarian cancer are being researched. Hopefully, improvements in screening tests will eventually lead to a lower ovarian cancer death rate.

You can see what some of the main cancer charities; Ovarian Cancer Action, Cancer Research UK and Target Ovarian Cancer had to say on this by visiting the Petitions Committee webpage.

Brexit Update

22 March 2017

Article by Nigel Barwise, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

The Research Service publishes a fortnightly Brexit update, for the Assembly’s External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee, on the latest government, parliament, EU and other relevant announcements and reports on Brexit.

See the Assembly website for the latest update (PDF, 157KB).

blog-image-uk-eu-flags-003

Source: United Kingdom and European Union flags by Dave Kellam. Licensed under the Creative Commons.

Making the Most of Marine

21 March 2017

Article by Dr Wendy Dodds, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

View this post in Welsh | Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg

A debate on 22 March 2017 calls on “the Welsh Government to bring forward an ambitious Marine Plan to support the sustainable development of the blue economy and to make it a central plank of its new economic strategy”.  This blog post looks briefly at the development of a Marine Plan for Wales, and considers the potential of the blue economy for Wales.

Marine Planning

Welsh beach The Welsh Government’s Welsh National Marine Plan (WNMP) is due to be consulted on in mid-2017. It will cover Wales’ inshore and offshore areas –which almost double the size of Wales. This will be the first plan of its kind in Wales to focus on Welsh seas, and importantly to articulate how they can support the well-being of current and future generations. A WNMP will introduce an integrated cross-sectoral plan–led approach to decision-making, and will inform regulatory systems such as marine licensing.

Marine planning activity in Wales is guided by the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 and the UK Marine Policy Statement, signed by all devolved administrations and the UK Government in March 2011. Underpinning this is a commitment to five High Level Marine Objectives and a vision for clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas.

Other marine planning authorities, such as the Marine Management Organisation, are working to develop marine plans in English areas, such as the south west and north west, that border Welsh waters in the Severn and Dee estuaries. Scotland published its national marine plan in 2015 and is working with marine planning partnerships to plan regionally.

A Blue (or Green) Economy

The Welsh Government considers green growth in Wales to be:

about fostering economic growth, development and social equity while ensuring that our natural assets can continue to provide the resources and environmental services where our well-being is concerned.

In a Welsh context green growth, therefore, includes the marine and coastal environment.

The New Economics Foundation’s New Blue Deal sets a vision for revitalising coastal communities and protecting natural resources. It aims to balance the economic and social needs of communities with those of our marine environment, to ensure they return to prosperity.

According to the European Commission, the blue economy is worth roughly 5.4 million jobs and generates a Gross Value Added of almost €500 billion a year across Europe. The Commission’s Action Plan for a Maritime Strategy in the Atlantic Area has a strong focus on the ‘blue economy’ and sets maritime priorities for 2013-2020, covering aspects such as marine renewables, fisheries and aquaculture, research and investment.

An Inquiry into the Potential of the Maritime Economy in Wales was undertaken in the Fourth Assembly by the Enterprise and Business Committee (final report February 2016 (PDF 952 KB)). The Committee heard from a range of stakeholders, including Irish Government on their approach to marine planning. Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth – An Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland (PDF 2.05 MB), published in 2012, places a strong focus on promoting the maritime economy and includes targets such as, increasing the turnover from the ocean economy to exceed €6.4 billion by 2020. One of the Committee’s main findings was that the Welsh Government should:

ensure that the Wales Marine Plan provides a comprehensive and overarching framework for the sustainable development of Wales’ marine resources and coastal communities. It should contain objectives and measurable targets – including for economic performance – and be implemented through a ‘whole government’ approach, modelled on the Irish Integrated Marine Plan.

A range of marine industries in Wales seek to maximise the contribution that Welsh seas can make to sustainable development. The Wales Seafood Strategy (PDF 56 KB)  is an industry owned and led strategy, published by Seafish, which seeks a 30% increase in fisheries and aquaculture production by 2025 and a 10% increase in employment in the same timeframe. Other sectors, such as marine renewables, could see Wales playing a global leading role in marine energy.  At present in Wales there are two wave and tidal stream Demonstration Zones, seabed agreements for three wave and tidal stream projects and companies such as Tidal Lagoon Power planning significant tidal lagoon energy projects in Wales, including Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay.

Work by the Celtic Seas Partnership (an EU LIFE + funded project led by WWF) found that the Celtic Sea provides jobs for 400,000 people, making an annual contribution to the economy of approximately £15 billion. Its work on future trends over the next twenty years found that these waters will get busier, creating competition for space and challenges to ensure we live within environmental limits. The Welsh Government is committed to implementing an ecosystem-based approach to the management of the marine environment. For example, the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) requires the achievement of Good Environmental Status (GES) by 2020 in Welsh seas. The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 also requires the Welsh Government to manage Welsh seas for future generations.