Wales' interpretation of EU rules "threatens distinctive semi-wooded landscape"

The Woodland Trust has expressed alarm at the Welsh Government's interpretation of EU Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) rules, which it says in effect penalises farmers for having clusters of trees on their land.

Image: G Y Gabor
Image: G Y Gabor

The Welsh Government has said it will class land with clusters of three or more trees creating a canopy of over 100m2 as ineligible for the BPS, the EU's main means of direct support for farmers, which is administered by member states or their devolved powers.

In response, Woodland Trust members and supporters have sent over 1,800 messages to their Assembly Members, urging them to think again about this interpretation.

Although many AMs have since raised this problem with deputy minister for farming and food Rebecca Evans, "the minister has not been prepared to think again", according to Woodland Trust Wales representative Rory Francis.

He added that Evans had written to Assembly Members explaining that she believes her interpretation of the EU rules to be correct and that an alternative proposed by the trust would not be acceptable to the EU Commission.

"What the letter did not explain was how it is that governments in other parts of the EU, most notably Scotland and England, have been able to do just this, thus protecting their farmland trees," Francis said.

The chairman of the Welsh Government's Woodland Strategy Advisory Panel has written to the minister suggesting that capital grant for stock fencing and the income forgone from stock exclusion be packaged together, allowing such woodland to regenerate while proving farmers with an income from it - a proposal which the Woodland Trust supports.

Francis added: "There is something distinctively Welsh about the intermingling of trees and grassland that the Welsh Government should be trying to protect."

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