We have just been informed by Powys County Council that the suspension of canoe launching at Glasbury Bont is likely to continue for some considerable time (possibly months rather than weeks), since they are now required to undertake a “Habitat Regulations Assessment” before they can recommence any launching activity on the common. They have, however, confirmed that they “will be seeking [very shortly] your [SWOAPG’s] input as representatives of organisations who use the river, as you do have a key role in moving this forward”, so we will bring further news as soon as we’ve been able to have a meaningful conversation with the Council.
Here is the full statement from the Council’s Professional Lead for Countryside Access and Recreation:
“I am writing to update you about the canoe launching arrangements from the Council’s land at Upper Glas-y-Bont common. We understand the concerns that the current situation is raising for our residents and businesses and are as keen to resolve this as you are. We are very much bound by the environmental permitting regime, though and the advice that has now been provided to us by Natural Resources Wales does have very significant implications.
“It is important to understand that the advice has been provided under statute law, so carries very significant legal weight and we are obliged to give it due consideration. That said, it has been made clear by Natural Resources Wales that the advice document is a starting point for a more detailed conversation with them.
“We have been advised that before we can recommence any launching activity on the common, the Council must carry out a Habitat Regulations Assessment. This is not a step that we have been required to take previously to permit launching and it does place additional requirements on us. If you are not familiar with the Habitat Regulations Assessment process, this is a detailed ecological assessment to assess the potential impacts of canoe launching on the River Wye, as a Special Area of Conservation. Carrying out the assessment requires specialist ecological expertise, review of the scientific evidence base and consultation; as a result, this will unfortunately not be completed within a matter of weeks.
“The assessment will need to set out the actions that will be taken to prevent any potential damage to the protected features of the Special Area of Conservation. Natural Resources Wales has set out a number of these mitigations in their advice, including:
- Setting a water level below which no canoe launching can take place;
- Limiting the number of boats that can be launched each day from the common; and
- Provision of appropriate information on sustainable paddling to commercial companies and groups launching from the site.
“As you will appreciate, this does raise many questions. We will be liaising with Natural Resources Wales to explore the scope of the assessment, mitigating actions and any supporting evidence that they hold. We will also need to talk to you, as stakeholders who have a key role in informing and making sure that ecological mitigation is effective, so that canoe launch arrangements can be sustained.
“I hope that this helps in understanding the steps that we must now take. In the meantime we will ensure that more permanent signage is put in place, so that everyone is aware of the current status and we will keep you all updated, as this progresses.”