THE WELSH GOVERNMENT should consider ensuring future public subsidies to landowners such as farmers are conditional on them allowing mobile phone masts on their land, according to a National Assembly Committee.
A new report from the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee calls on the Welsh Government to consider innovative ways to connect the last 4% of Wales without broadband access, and to consider reforming the planning regime to improve mobile phone coverage across the country.
Other recommendations from the report include:
- The Welsh Government should consider establishing a repayable grant or equity scheme to allow small operators to fill broadband gaps
- The hardest to reach 4% of communities and individuals living without broadband connectivity should be engaged in the process so that solutions are tailored to their needs
- The Welsh Government should reform the planning regime to allow the installation of telecoms masts that cover a wider geographical range
- OFCOM needs to use all its regulatory powers to meet its target of 100% mobile coverage and, as a minimum, this should be a condition of future auctions of the right to transmit
Committee Chair Russell George AM said: “Connectivity is no longer a ’nice-to-have’ in our daily lives; for many people and businesses we spoke to during our inquiry, it’s now considered an essential service – like electricity.
“Wales’ landscape and population spread poses challenges in a world where market forces determine broadband and mobile phone coverage.
“While the Welsh Government’s Superfast Cymru broadband scheme, delivered with BT – has connected high numbers of people, there remain pockets it has not be able to reach, and this is echoed with mobile phone coverage.
“Our recommendations will help Wales to develop a digital infrastructure which is as fast and as reliable as other parts of the UK, and is fit for the future.”
“Mobile phone operators must step forward with a business proposal in order to ensure they meet their universal coverage obligation,” said Charles Trotman, the CLA’s Rural Business and Economy Advisor in response to the Committee’s report.
Responding to the Committee’s message that the siting of mobile phone masts should be condition for land subsidy, Mr Trotman said: “Operators are responsible for developing their infrastructure strategy including where masts and other facilities are located. Their strategy will logically be driven by their commercial priorities. The Government has the option of driving development in less economic locations to meet its own commitments to supporting the rural community.”
“We welcome the conclusions of the report which refers to mobile coverage as an essential service,” Mr Trotman continued. “Delivering coverage to the rural community is essential for landowners who run a diversity of businesses, vital to the local economy, employing a high proportion of rural people in Wales.”
“A structure exists which enables mobile phone operators to work with landowners to meet their obligation to ensure Wales is connected. It is crucial that the telecoms industry take action.
“Government has a role to play in ensuring service-providers meet their obligations and to ensure that the Welsh community receives a fair deal in terms of quality of service and in sharing the value of providing the necessary infrastructure.”
He added: “Government also has a role to play in developing planning regulations to facilitate and accelerate the process to install the infrastructure.”
Meanwhile, farmers and landowners in Wales who are approached about accommodating new Emergency Services Network (ESN) masts on their land are being urged to take advice from their agent before making any commitment.
The Home Office is planning to set up and install a number of telecommunications sites in Wales to support the transition of the ESN from the current Airwave system to the new 4G system being provided by mobile operator EE.
“This involves the deployment of large steel lattice masts or monopole structures in an enclosed compound,” explained land agent Kathryn Williams at Davis Meade Property Consultants.
“The apparatus is likely to be between 15m and 20m in height, to be confirmed by site survey, and the enclosed ground based compound will be roughly 10m x 10m.
Telecoms infrastructure service provider Clarke Telecom is negotiating heads of terms on behalf of the Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government on behalf of the Crown (the Tenant).
“We are encouraging landowners that are approached about the installation of an ESN mast to take professional advice in relation to the Heads of Terms negotiations, particularly as agents fees are covered by the Secretary of State up to an agreed cap,” Kathryn explained.
“There are many clauses that are site specific, such as connecting the electricity supply and the installation of access tracks and roads, and these need to be carefully considered,” she added.
Glyphosate license renewed for five years
18 countries have backed the renewal of glyphosate for five years, with nine voting against and one abstaining.
At least 16 votes were required to renew glyphosate’s license.
A complete ban would have meant a competitive disadvantage for European farmers compared to other countries for example South America who are still allowed to use it.
The EU’s Health and Food Safety commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis tweeted: “Today’s vote shows that when we all want to, we are able to share and accept our collective responsibility in decision making.”
The European Commission, which tabled the extension, said in a statement: “The proposal voted today enjoys the broadest possible support by the Member States while ensuring a high level of protection of human health and the environment in line with EU legislation. The Commission will not adopt the decision before the current authorization expires on 15 December…”
The controversial weed killer has been under the spotlight in the EU since June 2016, when its previous 15-year license expired and an 18-month extension was granted.
The licence extension has been the source of much controversy with EU states divided on whether the chemical is safe for use after the WHO’s cancer agency concluded it probably causes cancer.
Welcoming the decision Guy Smith, NFU Vice President, said: “I would like to pay tribute to the farmers across the country who have lobbied their MEPs and invited them out on to farm to see first-hand the benefits glyphosate brings, and those who have made the case for glyphosate’s reauthorisation on social media. I am convinced their efforts have helped us reach this positive outcome.
“It is good news that farmers and growers will be able to continue using glyphosate for another five years. However, the fact remains that there is absolutely no regulatory reason why it should not have been re-authorised for 15 years, as was originally proposed.
“Today’s decision will be welcomed by farmers who have watched with growing concern as what should have been a straightforward decision has become increasingly political.”
Anthea McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, said: “The scaremongering and indecision over this product had left farmers and growers fearing they were staring over a cliff edge, so this will be greeted with enormous relief.”
Miss McIntyre, member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, said: “It should never have taken this long to renew the licence and it should have been renewed for a full 15 years but the last minute reprieve and the licence for five years is welcome.
“For a zero Improvement in public health and safety, we would have been worsening food security, soil quality, biodiversity and climate change.”
Green MEP Molly Scott Cato, a member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, commented: “This is a toxic decision. The Commission are ignoring huge opposition from civil society; the almost one and a half million EU citizens who have signed a petition against glyphosate and the European Parliament who recently voted for a five-year phase out.”
NFU Cymru wants a Welsh Xmas
MORE than half (58%) of Welsh consumers did not know if any of the items of their Christmas dinner last year were produced in Wales, according to a new survey commissioned by NFU Cymru.
The findings of the survey, conducted by YouGov, show that only 18% of Welsh consumers had Welsh turkey for Christmas dinner in 2016, while only 29% ate Welsh potatoes.
The survey did, however, show that shoppers recognise the hallmarks of Welsh produce. The findings show that consumers associate Welsh produce with quality (78%), high production standards (66%), high environmental standards (59%) and good value for money (53%).
In a bid to encourage more shoppers to buy more Welsh during the festive period this year, NFU Cymru has launched a new ‘Proud to Produce Your Christmas’ campaign at this year’s Royal Welsh Winter Fair, highlighting the role that Welsh farmers and growers play in producing the ingredients of a traditional Christmas dinner. The initiative aims to underline that it is possible to source the staple items of a traditional Christmas meal here in Wales, while also encouraging the public to support the Welsh food and farming sector by buying Welsh produce for their Christmas dinner this year.
The campaign features a video of a delicious Welsh Christmas feast and shows some of the producers across Wales who are responsible for producing the ingredients. The video includes turkeys reared in Meirionnydd, potatoes from Pembrokeshire, Brussel sprouts grown in Monmouthshire and pigs in blankets produced in Clwyd. The short film also highlights that PGI Welsh Lamb and Beef are also enjoyed in homes throughout Wales during the festive season as an alternative to traditional Christmas fayre.
NFU Cymru President Stephen James said: “Food and drink play an important role in bringing people together during the festive season and Welsh farmers are proud to play their part by producing world-class produce for your Christmas dinner. This is a potentially prosperous period for the food and drink industry here in Wales, but it’s clear from the findings of our survey work this is an opportunity that isn’t being fully capitalised on. There’s a role for all of us in raising the profile of Welsh produce to shoppers in the lead up to the festive period and encouraging more people to prioritise Welsh food and drink when it comes to sourcing the ingredients for their festive meal.
“The Royal Welsh Winter Fair is home to some of the best food and drink producers that Wales has to offer, so the event provides the perfect opportunity for us to launch our ‘Proud to Produce Your Christmas’ campaign to help drive a rise in the number of people sourcing Welsh for their meals over the festive period.
“Our campaign highlights that consumers do not need to look further afield to construct their festive feast – all of the ingredients are available right on their doorstep in Wales. We are proud that so many consumers associate Welsh produce with quality, good value for money and high production standards. We hope that by underlining the link between producers in Wales and the food they produce, more people will prioritise Welsh this Christmas and support our hardworking Welsh farmers and growers in the process.
“The ‘Proud to Produce Your Christmas’ video underlines how easy it is to source the ingredients for a wholesome, delicious festive feast that’s grown and reared here in Wales. I hope this video inspires more people to have a Welsh Christmas in 2017.”
Welsh farmers flock to sheep conference
A LARGE contingent of Welsh farmers travelled to Nottingham last week to attend one of the most important events in the calendar of the UK sheep industry – the bi-annual Sheep Breeders’ Round Table.
Over 200 delegates in total heard from international experts in genetics, farming and marketing. Key speakers included Icelandic sheep industry consultants Eyjólfur Ingvi Bjarnason and Eyþór Einarsson, and Emma Eyþórsdóttir, Associate Professor at the Agricultural University of Iceland.
The long anticipated preliminary results of the RamCompare project were announced in the Friday session which sparked much discussion. Phase 2 of the project has commenced with further results to be announced in May.
Past Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) Scholar Huw Williams of Talley in Carmarthenshire presented his work on the use of EID Tracking and DNA Shepherding for identifying parentage in flocks in Australia and New Zealand. Also, sheep geneticist Janet Roden outlined the ways that performance recording and genetic improvement could enhance the Welsh hill flock.
Sheep-breeder Aled Huw Roberts, from Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant in north Powys, won a scholarship from HCC to attend the Round Table event. He said: “I immensely enjoyed all the presentations and specifically the discussion after each. The underlying messages were to improve on-farm efficiency through having a clear focus on the market and quality of the products we are selling.”
HCC Industry Development Officer Gwawr Parry added: “The theme of this year’s conference was ‘thinking positively’, so it was great to see so many make the trip from Wales to contribute to constructive debates on how the industry can take on the challenges of the future.”
The Sheep Breeders Roundtable was organised by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), and supported by HCC, Quality Meat Scotland, the National Sheep Association and Scotland’s Rural College.
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