Performance report 2021-22

Our Chief Executive, Clare Pillman, offers her perspective of our performance this year and we outline the purpose of our organisation, our main roles and responsibilities, the key risks and issues we face, as well as explaining how we have managed delivery of our objectives this year.

Chief Executive’s statement

The tides of change have shifted yet again, and as we learn to live with the ongoing impacts of the covid pandemic, the world has firmly reset its focus to the people of Ukraine and the Russian invasion. We wholly endorse Welsh government’s position in designating Wales as a nation of sanctuary, and we are actively exploring how NRW can support humanitarian efforts to provide safe shelter and opportunities for Ukrainian refugees.

With experts predicting that the conflict will be protracted, we are actively monitoring the wider impacts that the war will have across the world, and how they will affect us in Wales. We are analysing the drivers and subsequent risks, such as in terms of changes to energy and food supply, land use and regulation, and the impact on the already rising cost of living - all against the ongoing ramifications of Britain’s EU-Exit.

This work has helped us to sharpen our focus on delivery. These pressing global issues cannot distract us from the realities of climate change. With Welsh Government commitment to place the nature and climate emergencies at the heart of their decision-making in their Programme for Government, we have been working closely with Ministers and officials to agree five shared priorities so that there is absolute clarity and alignment around expectation and service delivery. These areas of focus reflect the work of the ministerial deep dives, and include water quality, biodiversity, flood prevention and coal tips, enabling tree planting, and Marine consenting for renewable energy developments.

We have been working diligently with Welsh Government to outline and review NRW’s baseline activities. Workstreams have been defined and these include service levels, shared prioritisation and our future budget. We are also using this opportunity to explore invest to save potential and service efficiencies. This work will be presented to the Minister in the Summer of 2022.

During this year we made good progress across a wide range of our work programmes amidst the continuing challenges of Covid-19 and several serious flooding events. This has included reaching our target of 800 properties benefitting from a reduced level of flood risk through our capital works by December 2021, with further work to benefit even more properties by the end of 2022/23 with, for example, major works now underway to ensure the long-term safety of Wales’s largest natural lake, Llyn Tegid. The natural lake plays a vital role in regulating flows and managing floods in the Dee Valley. The work involves the strengthening of embankments and replacing the entire length of lakeshore rock protection and is managed under reservoir legislation as the lake’s embankments give protection from flooding to the town of Bala.

Our country-wide conversation, Nature and Us / Natur a Ni, launched in January and aimed to get the people of Wales talking about the way our actions impact on the natural environment, and how society’s relationship with nature needs to change. This work will inform the development of a shared vision for 2050 and considers the changes we need to make leading up to 2030 and 2050, as individuals and as a nation.

Our flagship species recovery partnership ‘Natur am Byth!’ continues at pace, and we are grateful to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Welsh Government for their funding in support of this work. The partnership of nine environment NGOs and NRW aims to halt the decline of 62 threatened species in Wales, of which 40 are at risk of extinction if we do not act now. The programme involves working closely with landowners, communities and a diverse range of people who would most benefit from increased connection to nature.

Two projects which will protect, enhance, and help restore nature and the environment have also been launched this year. Supported through the EU’s LIFE Programme and match funded by the Welsh Government, the £13.8 million cash injection will breathe new life into urgent conservation challenges over the next five years.

More than nine million pounds will be invested into bringing four Welsh rivers into good condition – the Teifi, Cleddau, Tywi and Usk. An estimated 500km of river will be improved.

Just over £4.5 million will also be targeted at conserving quaking bogs, the largest of the last remaining quaking bogs in Wales is Crymlyn Bog on the outskirts of Swansea. Other areas in the project include St David’s in Pembrokeshire and on the Llŷn Peninsula. They are all in need of intensive care due to damage in the past from drainage, pollution, or neglect. They are not only of interest from a carbon capture perspective - but they also harbour very rare species – including Britain’s largest spider, the great fen raft spider at Crymlyn and the marsh fritillary butterfly in Pembrokeshire and Gwynedd.

The next five years will be critical in terms of making tangible inroads to tackling the nature and climate emergencies. As we look forward to what will very much be a transition year in moving from one corporate plan to the next, we are preparing ourselves to meet the challenges ahead and we look forward to working with our colleagues, partners, and stakeholders to shape our priorities for the future.

Our staff have worked tirelessly over the last year, and I am immensely grateful to them all for their commitment and dedication, sharing their knowledge and expertise to protect nature and the communities of Wales.

- Clare Pillman, Chief Executive and Accounting Officer 

Introducing NRW

We are a Welsh Government Sponsored Body. Our core purpose is to pursue the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (SMNR) and apply the SMNR principles as set out in the Environment (Wales) Act 2016. Wales is the first country in the world to create a single organisation that brings together many of the tools needed to help manage our natural resources in an integrated way. Natural resources in Wales are fantastic - rugged mountains and woodlands, beautiful landscapes and coastlines, and amazing wildlife. They are vital for our survival and provide us with the basic things we need to live: clean air, clean water, and food. They create jobs for many thousands of people including farmers, foresters, and tourist operators, creating wealth and prosperity.

We have one request of you as a reader of this annual report and accounts - if on reading this report, you believe we should make changes to our next annual report and accounts, please get in touch with your ideas. We commit to reflecting on all feedback, and will continue to make changes to the report in future – all part of ensuring this annual report and accounts remains fair, balanced and understood by its readers.

Roles and responsibilities

As the largest Welsh Government sponsored body, we have a wide range of roles and responsibilities we deliver in an integrated way to achieve our overall purpose. These roles and responsibilities include:

  • Adviser to the Welsh Government, industry, farming, landowners, managers, the wider public and voluntary sector, communicating on issues relating to the environment and its natural resources
  • Regulator of industry, waste, energy, marine, forest and designated sites to protect people and the natural environment and support legitimate business
  • Designator for Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), National Parks and National Nature Reserves (NNRs)
  • Responder to more than 7,000 reported environmental incidents as a Category 1 emergency responder
  • Statutory consultee on more than 8,000 planning consultations
  • Manager of more than 7% of Wales’ land (influencing a wider area), including the Welsh Government Woodland Estate, National Nature Reserves, flood defences, assets, recreation facilities, hatcheries, and an analytical laboratory
  • Partner, educator, and enabler, supporting and facilitating other organisations’ work and helping people learn in, learn for, and learn about, the natural environment
  • Evidence gatherer monitoring the environment, influencing, commissioning and undertaking research, developing and sharing knowledge, and holding public records
  • Employer of approximately 2,100 staff, as well as contractors, and working with volunteers

Our values

Our values exemplify the way we want NRW to be and how we work:

  • We are passionate about the natural environment of Wales
  • We care for each other and the people we work with
  • We act with integrity
  • We make a difference now and for the future
  • We are proud to serve the people of Wales

Our well-being objectives and strategic priorities

How we want to contribute to the goals set out in the Well-being of Future Generations Act is reflected in our Corporate Plan to 2023. Our Well-being Objectives are:

  • Champion the Welsh environment and the sustainable management of Wales’ natural resources
  • Ensure land and water in Wales is managed sustainably in an integrated way
  • Improve the resilience and quality of our ecosystems
  • Reduce the risk to people and communities from environmental hazards such as flooding and pollution
  • Help people live healthier and more fulfilled lives
  • Promote successful and responsible business, using natural resources without damaging them
  • Develop NRW into an excellent organisation, delivering first class customer service

For the 2021/22 year, we continued to maintain our focus in working to achieve our well-being objectives through the same five strategic priorities as 2020/21:

  • Responding to the climate emergency
  • Responding to the nature emergency
  • Developing and using our evidence with partners to advocate for and deliver the sustainable management of natural resources
  • Developing NRW into an excellent organisation that serves the communities of Wales
  • Responding to the Covid-19 pandemic and the UK leaving the European Union, taking opportunities for a green recovery

For the coming year, our strategic priorities have been updated. Please see our 2022/23 Business Plan for more on these. For information on how our organisation is structured to deliver, please see our Accountability Report.

NRW in numbers

Some figures relating to our activity of the last year, including some work with others:

Champion the Welsh environment and the sustainable management of Wales’ natural resources

  • Over 1,100 Welsh sites are designated as Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), National Nature Reserve (NNR) and/or National Park
  • NRW is a member of all 15 Public Services Boards in Wales

Ensure land and water in Wales is managed sustainably and in an integrated way

  • We manage more than 7% of the land in Wales
  • We maintain around 4,030 flood risk management assets
  • We processed 1,292 permit applications via our permitting service

Improve resilience and quality of our ecosystems

  • We manage 56 National Nature Reserves (some in partnership with others)
  • Our responsibilities stretch for the 12 nautical miles from the coastline
  • We issued 1,874 species licences

Reduce the risk to people and communities from environmental hazards such as flooding and pollution

  • We maintain 455km of flood risk defences
  • 220 environmental incidents caused serious (major or significant) impact
  • 113,732 properties have registered to receive our flood warnings

Help people live healthier and more fulfilled lives

Promote successful and responsible business, using natural resources without damaging them

  • We responded to 8,862 planning consultations
  • We secured 59 prosecutions for environmental offences in 2021
  • We generated £37m in timber income

Develop NRW into an excellent organisation, delivering first class customer service

  • We received over 28,000 general enquiries to our customer hub via phone or email
  • We noted a 2% gender pay gap (2.5% in 2020/21)
  • We spent £255m

Key risks summary

As an organisation with diverse roles and responsibilities, we are managing several key risks and issues to mitigate their impact on the delivery of our work. As outlined in our Accountability report, risks to delivering our objectives are identified, assessed, managed, reviewed and recorded through risk registers at various levels of the business. Our strategic risk register included the following key risks:

Failure of assets

Our assets include major infrastructure such as reservoirs and flood assets, as well as vast areas of Welsh Government woodland estate. A failure in these assets could have a major impact on the general public, so we put a lot of effort into managing our assets to agreed standards. There are established systems for inspection and repair of flood risk assets and although performance remains high, improvements to our processes are being made and others being planned. These will further improve our targeting of maintenance work to high-risk assets and locations and refresh our organisational strategies on asset management. We are in a much better position on managing the reservoir risk with us being compliant with ‘Measures in The Interest of Safety’. See Well-being objective 4 for more around this.


We depend on Welsh Government grant-in-aid for just over half of our funding, in addition to commercial income and income from regulatory charges. A significant piece of work was undertaken to ensure that the funding needed to deliver our statutory requirements was secured and additionally the defined priorities that go beyond our minimum statutory commitment. We continue to maximise our ways of generating income to help us in our delivery. See our Finance summary for more around this.

Incident response

We have statutory duties for incident management as a category 1 responder under the Civil Contingencies Act with responsibilities to work with our partners to manage and mitigate the impacts on people and the environment of environmental incidents such as flooding, drought and environmental pollution. We rely on our skilled staff, systems, and procedures to mount our incident response, and owing to changes to some staff contracts, additional resource has been added to the rota system. This was a significant piece of work, successfully delivered and when staff are fully trained (through 22/23), the rota system will be fully resourced. See Incident response through the pandemic for more around our incident response activity.


The external recruitment market has changed significantly in recent times. There are a significant number of posts being advertised right across the marketplace, and it is now a jobseeker’s market. Failure to recruit is a significant risk across the business, the problem is particularly acute in some areas. The risk has been developed and escalated rapidly and now sits on our Strategic risk register as one of the most significant risks facing us. See Accountability report - effectiveness of internal controls for more around this.


This is very closely linked to both the Finance and the Recruitment risks. For us to deliver all our services and functions, we need both security of funding and adequate staff resources in place. This was an escalating risk during the year and although budgets and Business Plans have been agreed, this will continue to be closely monitored until we are comfortable that the risk has been reduced sufficiently. See our Finance summary for more around this.


We have maintained a close focus on this risk throughout the year, and it has been subject to regular scrutiny by the Audit and Risk Assurance Committee. A number of significant pieces of work that will go towards mitigating this risk, around organisational assurance, governance and improvements to the second line and associated controls had begun and will continue to progress throughout the year in with a view to strengthening internal controls. See Accountability report - effectiveness of internal controls for more around this.

Finance summary

Funding and how we spent our money

Our total income for the year was £88million. In addition, the Welsh Government provided £130million Grant in Aid and other grants towards a range of outcomes, of which £38million was allocated to flood and coastal risk management. In the financial statements, Grant in Aid is treated as a contribution from a controlling authority and not a source of income.

In 2021/22, our expenditure increased from £225million to £255 million. The change in expenditure is due to several reasons including an increase in staff costs mainly due to pensions, delivery of our capital programmes and the valuation of our timber felled during the year. Our total funding and spend distribution:

  • Funding by type: Welsh Government grant (60% / £130m), Charges (17% / £37m), Commercial and other income (22% / £48m), European and other external (1% / £2m)
  • Expenditure by type: Staff costs (47% / £119m), Capital works expensed in year (10% / £26m), Other expenditure (43% / £110m)

Managing our money

In 2021/22, our ‘core’ funding from Welsh Government remained at the same cash levels as the previous year (before that was reduced as a consequence of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic). In addition, Welsh Government provided other funding during the financial year to meet budget pressures agreed with Welsh Government. Also, WG continued to provide us with specific grant funding for programmes targeted at addressing the climate and nature emergency. Our timber income also increased due to the buoyant market and that income has all been re-invested into forestry. We have managed to hold our charge income levels at a similar level to previous financial years. The budget was scrutinised and approved by the Executive Team and Board.

Future look

We have published our Business Plan for 2022/23 which sets out our priorities for the financial year ahead. Our current Corporate Plan runs until 2023. We have set our plans based on expected resources, including Grant in Aid, charges and commercial income allocations and estimates. Charge income tends to be relatively stable, but our commercial income can be less predictable as it’s very sensitive to exchange rate changes which affect timber prices. We have indicative Grant in Aid allocations for 2023/24 onwards which will help with our planning. We are also working closely with Welsh Government on what we can achieve with the approved levels of funding that will be made available, with an ongoing review of the funding and associated service levels which may attract additional funding or result in acceptable changes to levels of service.

Non-current assets

The value of our non-current assets was £2,535 million at 31 March 2022, a 21% (£434 million) increase compared to last financial year. The most significant component is the value of the forest estate and biological assets which accounts for £2,181million of the total and the strong valuation of the crops on the estate was the main reason for the large increase.

Payment of trade and other payables

We have a commitment to pay 95% of suppliers within 30 days and we aim to exceed this target wherever possible. Performance for the whole year did fall below that target (83.7%). This was an issue we tackled and by March 2022 we were above the 95% threshold.

Debtor performance

Our continued management of commercial debt has seen a slight increase in commercial debt, with the average number of days for customers to pay reduced to 1 day compared to 3 days in 2020/21.

Our management of regulatory debt has seen a decrease in the level of debt from 5.6% in 2020/21 to 2.91% at the end of 2021/22.

NRW’s expected credit loss is £0.1million as at 31 March 2022.

Going concern

The Statement of Financial Position at 31 March 2022 shows positive taxpayers’ equity of £2,437million. The future financing of our liabilities is to be met by the Welsh Government Grant in Aid and the application of future income. We have an approved Business Plan for 2022/23. Therefore, it is appropriate to adopt a going concern basis to prepare the Financial Statements.


The pension liability is disclosed in the Financial Statements based on International Accounting Standard 19. The liability has decreased for the Local Government Pension Scheme from £106.6million to £54.4million in the year.

This is different from the basis used for funding calculations. The Environment Agency Pension Fund has estimated that it had enough assets to meet 110% of its expected future liabilities at 31 March 2022.


Our accounts are audited by the Auditor General for Wales. The audit fee for 2021/22 was £193k.

Other reports

As an organisation, we regularly publish a number of reports including an Equality, diversity and inclusion annual report, a Corporate environmental report, and Area Statements; many of which can be accessed in Corporate information. Published research and evidence reports can also be accessed in Research and reports (including the State of Natural Resources Report (SoNaRR) for Wales 2020).

Performance summary

All measures in our performance framework relate to our Well-being Objectives. Reporting and scrutiny of topic reports and measure reports in our Business Plan dashboard takes place in open public session at NRW Board meetings four times a year, with further scrutiny of this reporting via Welsh Government.

At the end of the 2021/22 year our Business Plan dashboard included 30 measures (Note: Some measures were removed from this dashboard half way through the year, and one measure was added. The in year removed measures are not included within this year end measures figure), across 20 topics. At year end, of those measures:

• 22 were Green (i.e. achieved target or milestone)
• 6 were Amber (i.e. close to target or milestone)
• 2 were Red (i.e. missed target or milestone)

Comparing performance with the previous year (2020/21), at the end of 2021/22 we had one more green measure, with six less measures amber or red and the 2021/22 dashboard reflected five less measures overall (note: the nature, form, detail and context of our dashboard measures can vary to some extent each year, the reported measure positions will not always be directly comparable). Reports for previous years can also be viewed via our Annual report and accounts.

In the coming year we will be developing our new Corporate Plan – including our Well-being Objectives and related indicators.

Performance analysis

This part of the performance report aims to reflect some of what has been achieved this year, including examples reflecting particular highlights and significant areas of challenge.

By Well-being objective (WBO), we outline:

  • year end position for each of our Business Plan dashboard measures (To see our in-year reported positions on all these measures, please refer to our published NRW Board papers)
  • some of our planned priority activity for the coming year
  • a number of delivery examples related to the Well-being objective (some of which relate to a number of Well-being Objectives)

Some wider reflections on the approach we have taken to our annual reporting are also included in relation to: Wales’ Well-being Goals, Area Statements; Biodiversity and Ecosystems Resilience.

Wales’ well-being goals: In the following part of this annual report and accounts we have also indicated a number of item relationships with Wales’ well-being goals - with selected linked Goals listed.

To find out about Wales Well-being Goals, please see Wales’ well-being goals. Or, for more on the goals’ relevance to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), please see SDGs’ relationship with Wales’ National Indicators and Wales’ well-being goals.

Well-being objective 1: Champion the Welsh environment and the sustainable management of Wales’ natural resources

We aim to champion the natural environment in everything we do – in the information we provide, in supporting Public Services Boards and in putting the sustainable management of natural resources into practice across all our work – to help people make the most of the benefits it offers as well as valuing it for its own sake – now and for future generations.

Linked Wales goals:

  • A prosperous Wales
  • A resilient Wales
  • A healthier Wales
  • A more equal Wales
  • A Wales of more cohesive communities
  • A Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language
  • A globally responsible Wales

Reflecting on our business plan dashboard progress for 2021/22, we:

  • Completed actions on National Nature Reserves on NRW managed land, with 365 planned priority actions complete at year end. Measure status: Green
  • Verified Glastir woodland grants applications, with over 200 applications now verified across the creation and restoration grant scheme rounds. Measure status: Green
  • Supported the National Marine Plan, with enhancement and restoration principles guidance signed off. Measure status: Green
  • Encouraged use of the latest State of Natural Resources Report, listening to feedback from users and acting to support required systems changes. Measure status: Green
  • Used Area Statements within our organisation, framing our future place plans around Area Statement priorities and opportunities. Measure status: Green
  • Continued working with others to develop a shared 2050 vision for Wales’ natural environment (Natur a Ni), launching the campaign and future plan for development. Measure status: Green

Looking forward, our Business Plan for 2022/23 includes our priority commitments for the coming year, including that next year we will:

  • Deliver our Climate Change and Decarbonisation Change Programme
  • Develop and begin to implement our Monitoring Strategy, improving the quality of our environmental monitoring data and processes
  • Contribute to Well-being Assessments and Well-being Plans using our Area Statements as a focus for local environmental issues
  • Facilitate Nature and Us - developing a shared vision for the environment to 2050 and action for the next 10 years

We have included more detail on a number of the above final measure positions as part of the delivery examples from 2021/22 which follow:

The state of natural resources and our future focus

The State of Natural Resources Report (SoNaRR) outlined the need to transform the systems through which society is impacting on the environment - to enable Wales to achieve the sustainable management of natural resources.

SoNaRR, is a statutory five yearly report which aims to inform Welsh Government policy development, local authority planning and Area Statements. Over and above the need for sustained action through traditional environmental regulation and management, the report concluded that for Wales to achieve the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (SMNR) we need to transform the way we live and the systems that support our way of life.

In calling for a transformation in the energy, transport and food systems (the three largest impactors on the global environment) the report echoed The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UN IPCC) and The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) reports. Given that many people are pushing the need for such a systems approach, it is hard to pin down exactly the impact the SoNaRR report has had.

We have however, heard from local authorities, civil society groups, such as Wales TUC, and Welsh Government that they have taken note of the report and are using it to inform their thinking on action to address the nature and climate emergencies.

How we use the Area Statements

We use Area Statements through reflecting the themes arising from these within the Place plan for each of our organisation’s operational areas (North East Wales, North West Wales, Mid Wales, South East Wales, South Central Wales, and South West Wales).

For example, the South East Area Statement has four themes (Climate Ready Gwent; Linking Our Landscapes; Healthy Active Connected; Ways of Working), and the South East Place Plan’s six themes incorporates these themes within it. Reflecting Area Statements within our Place Plans in this way ensures the Area Statements are truly embedded into our Operations. The Area Statement for Marine also underpins the annual Marine Programme for Wales.

Service Plans have also taken into account Area Statements. So, for example, the Land Stewardship Service Plan was iteratively developed and combined Area Statement priorities within a national framework.

Area Statements are not frozen in time and will evolve iteratively as engagement increases and new evidence is gathered, leading to new ideas and working across boundaries.

Linked Wales goals:

  • A prosperous Wales
  • A resilient Wales (main linked goal)
  • A globally responsible Wales

Ecological enhancement features in coastal defence structures

Over the past year we have been developing guidance documents and training toolkits that can be used to support an increase in the use of ecological enhancement features (such as artificial rock pools and living seawall panels) within coastal defence structures.

The use of such features forms an integral part of the Marine Area Statement theme to raise awareness of and increase the use of nature-based solutions at the coast. Features such as artificial rock pools and living seawall panels help to support improvements in biodiversity on coastal defence structures by mimicking surface properties and complexity found on natural shorelines.

The guidance materials are targeted at flood risk and asset management teams within our organisation and wider stakeholders who have coastal defence operations or who own assets along the coast such as local authorities, Network Rail and Welsh Water. They provide a summary of the evidence base of the use of the features to date, indicative stepped processes to aid practitioners through the various stages involved with projects and case studies of their use in Wales.

During the process, we worked with a wide range of stakeholders to identify some of the key barriers and challenges to using the features within their operations and we have identified a series of actions to help to overcome these. The success of many of these projects will require cross-collaboration amongst different organisations (including our organisation, Universities, industry, and suppliers) that have established expertise in different aspects of the processes.

Over the next year we will set up a trial project to deploy features with teams internally or wider stakeholders.

Linked Wales goals:

  • A prosperous Wales
  • A resilient Wales (main linked goal)
  • A globally responsible Wales

Nature and us

Nature and us is a national conversation we have hosted. The aim is to offer involvement opportunities for people in Wales to think about the way our actions impact on the natural environment, to consider how society’s relationship with nature needs to change now and over the next 30 years.

The Nature and us programme seeks to involve everyone in Wales in a national conversation about the future of the natural environment. The dual aims of the initiative are to increase awareness of the nature and climate emergency, and to create a platform to foster collaboration between public, private and third sectors (to trial new ideas, launch experiments and support innovation for action).

In designing our approach we are embodying the SD and SMNR principles – particularly thinking long term through using Futures tools, exploring involvement, participation and collaboration. We have had to consider the range of communication and engagement tools that we have available, and how we can make the initiative as engaging as possible to a wide range of audiences.

We spoke to a range of organisations representing seldom heard voices to understand their needs, and as a result, developed different involvement methods and additional resources to enable small groups to be able to participate. We also commissioned two ‘writers in residence’ to help people engage.

We have received the highest number of responses for an NRW engagement exercise to date and there are lots of positives from the exercise on which to build. However there are still gaps in the demographic mix of respondents. We need to work even harder to engage young people and seldom heard voices. We need to be more local or personal in our approach to discussing “big issues” and focus on the accessibility of the language we use.

This work will continue in 2022-23 as we look to consolidate the relationships we have built so far

Linked Wales goals:

  • A prosperous Wales
  • A resilient Wales
  • A healthier Wales
  • A more equal Wales
  • A Wales of more cohesive communities
  • A Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language
  • A globally responsible Wales

Well-being objective 2: Ensure land and water in Wales is managed sustainably in an integrated way

A fully integrated approach to the sustainable management of land and water in Wales can reap multiple benefits across all sectors – farming, forestry, fisheries, and the urban environment. However, this is not happening yet. We aim to put this approach into practice on the land and water we manage ourselves and encourage all land and water managers to adopt an SMNR approach.

Linked Wales goals:

  • A prosperous Wales
  • A resilient Wales
  • A healthier Wales
  • A Wales of more cohesive communities
  • A Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language
  • A globally responsible Wales

Reflecting on our business plan dashboard progress for 2021/22, we:

  • acted to restore Welsh Peatlands, with 785 hectares of peatland restoration activity delivered across Wales. Measure status: Green
  • created new woodland on the Welsh Government Woodland Estate, identifying/acquiring 157 hectares and planting 27 hectares (Having decided to delay planting two sites to allow for further stakeholder engagement). Measure status: Amber
  • maintained the UK Woodland Assurance Standard, retaining certification following the latest external audit. Measure status: Green
  • delivered water related investigations and responses, with 2,268 investigations delivered of 2,597 required, and plan consultations reviewed and responded to( Following plans publication next year, our focus will be on delivery, including in Opportunity Catchments). Measure status: Red
  • progressed Wales Marine Protected Area network actions, with all relevant projects completed. Measure status: Green

Looking forward, our Business Plan for 2022/23 includes our priority commitments for the coming year, including that next year we will:

  • deliver the Woodland Creation Programme (including Welsh Government's ‘Deep Dive’ Recommendations) and related services
  • implement the 3rd cycle of River Basin Management Plans with partners and key stakeholders, delivering improvements
  • deliver the next phase of the Metal Mines Remediation Programme to deal with the legacy of contaminated land, impacts on water quality and mine hazards

We have included more detail on a number of the above final measure positions as part of the delivery examples from 2021/22 which follow:

Wales’ water environment - state, challenges and measures

River Basin Management Plans outline the state of Wales’ water environment and action needed to maintain and improve it. We have consulted on revised River Basin Management Plans to be published later this year which will influence future improvement priorities.

Water and water environments are essential for life and livelihoods. Water is a vital resource for businesses and agriculture, and critical to ensure the economy will prosper. As required by the Water Environment Regulations, River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs) take a holistic, catchment to coast approach, to manage pressures on the water environment and the actions required to protect and improve them. The most recent assessment of the status of Wales’ water bodies (in 2021) found 40% of these were achieving good (or better) status.

Over 2021/22 we delivered 664 investigations related to improving or maintaining the status of waters around Wales, bringing the total completed to 2,268 out of a programme of 2,597. These investigations greatly improve our understanding of the reasons why some water bodies are not achieving good status. Action undertaken linked to past investigations has resulted in further improvements in the water environment. Though fewer investigations were completed than planned during 2021/22, those investigations completed will support the future improvement or maintenance of water environments around Wales. As River Basin Management Plans are updated on a 6 year cycle we have now consulted on and developed new plans, with plans for the Dee and Western Wales expected to launch in Summer 2022/23 (note: the plan for the Severn, led by the Environment Agency, is expected to launch later in the year).

To influence future water company investment we have also been working with Welsh Government, the Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat) and water companies. Some of this future investment will be focussed on Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) catchments, storm overflows, and RBMPs - though all environmental legislative areas relevant to water companies in Wales will be considered.

Future forestry felling licences

Welsh Government’s Agriculture (Wales) White Paper consultation of December 2020 contained a proposal to provide us with powers to amend and add conditions to felling licences. Once passed into law this will help us ensure all forestry permits we issue contribute to the sustainable management of natural resources.

Forestry felling licences are the only permit we issue that we do not have the ability to amend, suspend or revoke subsequently if required, or to add more general conditions beyond those very tightly defined in the Forestry Act 1967. The Minister for Climate Change, Julie James MS, made a statement on the significance of this at a Senedd plenary in Dec 2021, referring mainly to red squirrels but acknowledging wider application too. A proposed legislative change to address this will be part of the Agriculture (Wales) Bill to be considered by the Senedd in early autumn 2022 and scheduled for Royal Assent in early summer 2023.

In the last year we have been helping Welsh Government in our advisory role, explaining how the anticipated new powers may be used and providing evidence of possible impacts. There has been considerable stakeholder interest, particularly from environmental non-governmental organisations but also from the forestry industry, and they have been kept fully engaged through a sub-group of NRW’s Wales Land Management Forum chaired by Welsh Government.

The forestry industry has made significant advances in its environmental performance with the adoption of the UK Forestry Standard in 1998 and the granting of these additional powers will enable us to take account of important site-specific factors. This will be in keeping with the Standard and will help further safeguard the natural resources of Wales.

Linked Wales goals:

  • A resilient Wales (main linked goal)
  • A globally responsible Wales

Enhancing the long-term viability and sustainability of livestock farms

The Mid Wales Area Statement supported a farmer-led research initiative in South Powys to address local evidence gaps identified by livestock farmers who are wanting to enhance the long-term viability and sustainability of their farms.

Livestock production, which relies on grassland productivity, plays an important role in securing sustainable protein production, as well as enhancing carbon uptake and managing biodiversity for multiple ecosystem services.

Research on the impact of grazing on ecosystems has often focused on relatively simple comparisons between grazed and non-grazed – an approach that can miss significant nuances, especially at the local level. To fill this gap the project investigated how local knowledge – on grazing type and intensity – is critical in determining impacts on soil health and soil carbon stocks. The project was funded by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and Biotechnology/Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) net-zero partnership and aimed to identify optimal grazing management applicable to the local conditions and quantify their benefits to soil biodiversity, soil carbon content and grassland sustainability.

The project also identified ways to communicate this complex topic to other farmers to elicit a potential change in behaviour and the development of more sustainable farming practices. Researchers from University of Gloucestershire, Royal Agricultural University, and Cynidr Consulting with support from NRW and Lantra have worked together with farmer partners to co-design principles to minimise livestock grazing impacts on ecosystems. The project delivered towards various Area Statement themes and priorities in Mid Wales and is an exemplar of partnership working and of the involved partners’ shared interest in SMNR.

Linked Wales goals:

  • A prosperous Wales
  • A resilient Wales (main linked goal)
  • A globally responsible Wales

Preventing pollution upstream

Our Dairy project has supported farmers to make the most of the nutrients within the slurry their stock generates by providing advice and guidance on storage and beneficial use, supporting their farm business, and protecting the quality of our rivers.

Our Dairy project has been actively supporting farmers to make the best use of the nutrients in their slurry and protect the quality of our rivers during 21/22.

The project has visited more than 80 new farms during the year and made more than 140 follow up visits to farms previously visited. During the follow up visits more than 70 significant improvements were recorded, as well as numerous minor repairs such as repaired guttering.

Increases in available slurry storage have also been recorded at a number of farms with the installation of earth bank slurry lagoons and above ground storage tanks, with a number of planning applications on a range of farms across Wales in the pipeline. This valuable on farm work is helping to protect our watercourses whilst supporting farm businesses to make the most of their available nutrient resource.

Linked Wales goals:

  • A prosperous Wales
  • A resilient Wales

Well-being objective 3: Improve the resilience and quality of our ecosystems

Our State of Natural Resources Report (SoNaRR) identified that many ecosystems will not be adaptable enough to deal with climate change and other pressures in future and so may not be able to provide the services we need – such as clean air and water. We designate special sites such as National Nature Reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest, for example – but our work is much broader than this. We aim to take biodiversity and ecosystem resilience into account in all our functions, activities and decisions and help other public bodies do the same.

Linked Wales goals:

  • A prosperous Wales
  • A resilient Wales
  • A healthier Wales
  • A more equal Wales
  • A Wales of more cohesive communities
  • A Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language
  • A globally responsible Wales

Reflecting on our business plan dashboard progress for 2021/22, we:

  • acted on the Climate Emergency, and reported on the delivery of priorities and also set up a new Climate Change and Decarbonisation Team. Measure status: Amber
  • took Biodiversity action, delivering for Vital Nature and putting biodiversity at the core of our work with a biodiversity work programme produced across all our functions. Measure status: Green
  • improved protected sites features condition, with the majority of actions completed or underway at year end. Measure status: Green
  • helped species in decline, or at the edge of extinction, including some of our rarest species, though we have not reported on development of priorities as planned in order to focus on a review of protected species Wildlife and Countryside Act (Schedules 5 and 8, reflecting protected animals and plants). Measure status: Amber

Looking forward, our Business plan for 2022/23 includes our priority commitments for the coming year, including that next year we will:

  • deliver the Declining Species Programme to target declining species or those on the edge of extinction
  • deliver Habitat Restoration Programmes, including developing a National Grassland Action Plan
  • deliver our EU LIFE projects
  • work with Welsh Government on the ‘Deep Dive’ on biodiversity and support delivery of the recommendations

We have included more detail on a number of the above final measure positions as part of the delivery examples from 2021/22 which follow:

Our role in tackling the climate and nature emergencies

Addressing the climate and nature crises is a prerequisite to the attainment of sustainable management of Wales’ natural resources so it is key to delivering our well-being objectives.

Since the declaration of a climate emergency in 2019, we have been working to mainstream consideration of climate change across our work programmes, and this remains a key priority.

Managing our estate, particularly restoration of peatlands and expansion of woodland to increase storage of carbon on the more than 7% of Wales’ land that we manage is essential. The National Peatland Action Programme is a great example where we are restoring around 700 hectares of peatland each year across Wales resulting in biodiversity benefits while reducing carbon emissions. In terms of our buildings and fleet, we have been modelling the implications of post-Covid hybrid working and the considerable potential that it provides to reduce our organisational carbon footprint through reduced commuting.

We have developed a set of principles and standards that will drive the current review of our buildings to both reduce their energy use and make them more resilient to future extreme weather. As well as planning for the widespread installation of EV charging at our sites, we have introduced Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil as a transitionary fuel for vehicles and machinery that cannot yet be replaced by electric equivalents, resulting in around 90% reduction in emissions.

Sharing our experience with the Welsh public sector through regional workshops and collaborative groups is helping accelerate wider action. We led collaboration amongst the UK environmental agencies to make the case for wider use of nature-based solutions at CoP26 in Glasgow and through Wales Climate Week events too. CoP26 provided an opportunity to promote awareness of the climate change challenges we face and make the case for rapid action across Wales – the equivalent biodiversity conference (CoP15) later in 2022 should provide a similar occasion for nature.

Developing Natur am Byth

Through partnership working with nine environmental charities, ‘Natur am Byth’ is acting to save species from extinction and reconnect people to nature - improving landscapes and coastal areas across Wales.

Natur am Byth, a partnership involving our organisation and Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Bat Conservation Trust, Buglife, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife, Marine Conservation Society, RSPB and Vincent Wildlife Trust, has been taking forwards one of Wales’ largest natural heritage and outreach programmes to save species from extinction and reconnect people to nature.

We expect to inspire people in Wales from all walks of life to take action – mobilising diverse communities to care for the wildlife on their doorstep. The partnership sees us united with nine environmental charities, and provides much needed capacity in the natural heritage sector to save threatened species.

In developing the programme the partnership mapped 62 threatened species against themes and identified the landscapes and coastal areas to target conservation and engagement. Nine areas around Wales now form our focus.

Natur am Byth is unique in integrating terrestrial and marine management issues - supporting vulnerable marine species as well as those on land and freshwater. In most areas we will employ an integrated approach across habitats to deliver multiple benefits for rare species. Some areas include isolated populations of species on the brink of extinction, which require specific action to ensure they continue to exist.

An award was made of over £900k in June 2021 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to progress with the initial project development, and the delivery phase application is scheduled for later next year. #naturambyth

Linked Wales goals:

  • A resilient Wales (main linked goal)
  • A healthier Wales
  • A more equal Wales
  • A Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language
  • A globally responsible Wales

Well-being objective 4: Reduce the risk to people and communities from environmental hazards such as flooding and pollution

We advise on, forecast and monitor the likelihood of flooding and, as well as developing flood defence schemes, we support local communities to reduce their risks. Similarly, we advise and regulate industry and waste sites to reduce the likelihood of pollution entering the wider natural environment. We also provide a response to environmental incidents that do occur despite best efforts. Aiming to be firm but fair, we investigate incidents and use our full range of powers to tackle environmental crime when necessary.

Linked Wales goals:

  • A prosperous Wales
  • A resilient Wales
  • A healthier Wales
  • A more equal Wales
  • A Wales of more cohesive communities
  • A globally responsible Wales

Reflecting on our Business Plan dashboard progress for 2021/22, we:

  • maintained flood risk assets, with 98.1% of flood risk assets in high risk systems at target condition at year end. Measure status: Green
  • responded to incidents, responding to 98% of incidents initially assessed as high category within four hours. Measure status: Green
  • protected more properties from flooding, with reduced or sustained protection delivered to 1,081 properties this financial year, exceeding our target. Measure status: Green
  • implemented Flood Review recommendations, a number remaining outstanding at year end to be delivered over the coming months. Measure status: Amber.
  • furthered work to reduce metal mine pollution, including works at Cwm Rheidol and Abbey Consols. Although not all work initially planned has been completed, other work has been brought forwards. Measure status: Amber

Looking forward, our Business Plan for 2022/23 includes our priority commitments for the coming year, including that next year we will:

  • deliver our maintenance programmes to ensure our flood risk management defences continue to provide sustained protection to communities at risk
  • investigate and deliver options to reduce the risk of flooding to communities through the Flood Risk Management Capital Programme
  • publish updated Flood Risk Management Plans for Wales, which contain the strategic priorities and plans for all catchments across Wales
  • undertake a review of our approach to environmental incidents in our remit

We have included more detail on a number of the above final measure positions as part of the delivery examples from 2021/22 which follow:

Incident response through the pandemic

We have an important legal responsibility as a Category 1 Responder under the Civil Contingencies Act (2004) to respond directly to incidents that are within our remit, and to support the incident management roles of other organisations such as the emergency services, in order to help reduce the risk to people and communities from environmental hazards such as flooding and pollution.

We must also have plans in place to make sure that we can continue to deliver our functions, so far as is reasonably practicable, during a disruption.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the biggest disruption to working practices we have ever experienced. We managed our response to this by standing up our strategic and tactical incident response groups, informed by our pandemic planning and earlier organisational response to the UK’s exit from the European Union. We were able to rapidly transition to majority home working and focused on safeguarding the wellbeing, health and safety of our staff while continuing to deliver core services, including incident response.

The number of environmental incidents reported to us increased during the pandemic, from 6,270 in 2019/20 to 7,350 in 2020/21 and 7,670 in 2021/22, which we believe in part reflects the fact that more people are spending time outdoors in the Welsh countryside and are therefore more likely to observe and report incidents. We continued to respond to these incident reports, including through attendance where this was deemed necessary according to our guidance and with appropriate risk assessments in place. We also engaged with other Category 1 Responders, through the Local Resilience Forums, to help manage the wider public sector response to the pandemic and have provided mutual aid where this was requested.

Linked Wales goals:

  • A resilient Wales
  • A healthier Wales
  • A Wales of more cohesive communities

Regulation through lockdowns

Our regulatory work is important in protecting the environment, human health, and wellbeing. While restrictions were put in place to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic, we put measures in place to maintain our service as far as possible, while ensuring that our staff and others were kept safe and well.

Early during the pandemic we contacted all of our regulated industry, waste and water operators detailing our expectations in relation to environmental protection. It was explained that whilst we aspired for all operators to continue to meet the conditions of their permits, we recognised that in these exceptional times this may not be possible. We therefore asked operators to proactively engage with us so that any issues of non-compliance could be discussed on a case-by-case basis.

We made 19 temporary regulatory decisions to facilitate regulation in line with social distancing and reflect the rapid change of circumstances. An example of a decision made to facilitate socially distanced regulation was the relaxation of the requirement for signatures in person on Waste Transfer Notes documentation and Trans-frontier shipment documentation.

Covid-19 restrictions heavily impacted our planned compliance work; however, we prioritised site visits and responded to issues of the highest environmental and public risk.

We developed new ways of working to continue compliance assessments, using phone calls, focused visits to priority sites and a range of alternative methods for gathering intelligence. In some cases, we successfully used remote inspection methods or a hybrid approach where documentation was audited remotely prior to a site visit. Feedback from operators on these methods has been generally positive and we have also learned that remote compliance work requires extra preparation to be successful.

Linked Wales goals:

  • A prosperous Wales
  • A resilient Wales

Flood review programme – learning lessons and implementing improvements

The Flood Recovery & Review Implementation Programme is focused on enhancing our professional Flood Risk & Incident Management service for Wales, which in turn will ensure a better future for people, communities, and business in Wales at risk of flooding and for NRW staff involved in the management and recovery of incidents.

February 2020 saw some of the most devastating floods Wales has seen in a generation. Some of our services were significantly stretched in these extreme events, and we undertook a review to assess the lessons learnt. Our Flood Review report was published in October 2020, with 74 actions to improve NRW’s operations in flood incidents. We have been delivering the actions through the Flood Recovery & Review Implementation Programme, and we made good progress in 2021/22, with 46 of the 74 actions complete at year end. We are making progress on the remaining actions, with many requiring delivery over the long term.

The challenges from more frequent extreme weather events associated with climate change are significant, and set to rise. Implementing the recommendations from the Flood Review will improve our services to the public of Wales during flooding incidents, and help deliver our Well-being Objectives. They will also help our staff, by putting in place measures to improve the resilience of our response. We have also reviewed our land management practices, and are making improvements there. Learning from incidents and implementing improvements is a key element of an adaptive approach using evidence to help prevent risks in the long term.

Linked Wales goals:

  • A resilient Wales (main linked goal)
  • A healthier Wales
  • A globally responsible Wales

Regulatory Approaches and Health

Thirty-six environmental permits for waste treatment installations have been reviewed and upgraded to ensure these installations are performing to the highest environmental standards. This involved reviewing existing permits against the latest industry best practice – the EU Best Available Techniques Reference Document (BREF).

These permit reviews were a requirement of the Industrial Emissions Directive and ensures that all associated facilities continue to use the best techniques for preventing or minimising emissions and impacts on the environment. Techniques can include both the technology used and the way an installation is designed, built, maintained, operated, and decommissioned.

Large facilities using a wide range of technologies to treat waste were included in the review - such as heat treatment to sterilise hazardous clinical wastes, biological Anaerobic Digestion (AD) processes, and the recovery of end of life fridges. Where improvements have been identified and implemented, this will lead to enhanced environmental performance and reduced emissions.

New conditions for AD sites included improvements to secondary containment measures and additional requirements for monitoring and controlling of key waste and process parameters. This helps to ensure stability in the digester and reduce the potential of odour nuisance. It also provides an early warning of any system failure, thereby reducing risk of explosions and loss of containment. Sites that accept and recover end of life fridges will have a tighter limit for releases of the harmful pollutant chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

The permits have now been re-issued with updated conditions that will improve the environment management systems, providing a higher level of environmental performance with a commitment of continuous improvement.

Linked Wales goals:

  • A prosperous Wales
  • A resilient Wales

Well-being objective 5: Help people live healthier and more fulfilled lives

As well as providing a wide range of opportunities for recreation on the land we manage ourselves, we work with partners to encourage everyone to access the outdoors throughout Wales and improve their health and well-being. We support community projects and help people to learn about the value of the natural environment, its importance in day to day life and its part in Welsh culture and heritage.

Linked Wales goals:

  • A prosperous Wales
  • A healthier Wales
  • A more equal Wales
  • A Wales of more cohesive communities
  • A Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language
  • A globally responsible Wales

Reflecting on our Business Plan dashboard progress for 2021/22, we:

  • delivered health and educator training, including for Wales Outdoor Learning Week 2022 and consolidated our thinking around health policy. Measure status: Green

Looking forward, our Business Plan for 2022/23 includes our priority commitments for the coming year, including that next year we will:

  • improve our provision for visitors whether local or from further afield in the woodlands and National Nature Reserves we manage
  • advise Welsh Government on its access reform programme and contribute to the review of the Wales Coast Path and the integration with wider trail networks

We have included more detail on a number of the above final measure positions as part of the delivery examples from 2021/22 which follow​:

People enjoying their local environment

Encouraging and facilitating healthy activities across the Estate we manage – supporting better mental and physical health. As part of encouraging people to get outside to improve their physical and mental health we have made improvements across Wales for sites we manage. Examples included:

  • Improving signage, wayfinding and trailside interpretation for the 266 waymarked trails on the estate we manage - enhancing visitor experience at these woodlands and National Nature reserves
  • Displaying new heritage interpretation at our visitor centres, including explaining the cultural significance of these site features
  • A promotional film about visiting our woodlands and reserves
  • Improving the photography stock reflecting visits to recreation related sites
  • Providing new information around site and trail accessibility for visitors – enabling people to decide which trails would be best for them to visit
  • Maintaining 47 bike trails
  • A record number of visits to top visitor sites (post Covid)
  • Website status updates in relation to sites – enabling visitors to access the latest updates on any changes that might impact the visits.

We also continued to welcome permissions applications for recreational events, including cycling, running, horse riding and triathlons – encouraging and supporting outdoor exercise across sites we manage. We are also working on a new IT system, to support these applications and the consultation around them in future.

We have been planning further improvements to our support for community woodland projects, with Llais Y Goedwig supporting new and existing projects including: Coed Y Bont, Spirit of Llynfi Woodland, Llyn Parc Mawr and Golygfa Gwydyr. We recognise the many benefits such projects provide, e.g.; team building, ‘green gym’ exercise, a chance to meet other people in your community, make friends and be a part of something positive – all contributing to better mental and physical health This activity also contributes to a number of the trees and timber deep dive recommendations.

Linked Wales goals:

  • A resilient Wales
  • A healthier Wales (main linked goal)
  • A Wales of more cohesive communities

Learning for life - Learning in, learning about and learning for our natural environment

We have provided delivery materials and resources for use across Wales, including coverage of the breadth of the new Curriculum for Wales, whilst supporting a natural progression for all.

Over the last year, our offer to the education sector has expanded to include a variety of new resources and a blended approach of face to face and webinar-based training. The nature and climate emergencies and the need to sustainably manage our natural resources run throughout our education resources - brought to life though activity plans, resource cards, games and information notes to support all educators and settings to deliver across the new Curriculum for Wales. Topics cover everything from Peatlands and the Wales Coast Path to Climate Change with one educator commenting,

Great course, I’m leaving with a positive, motivational message to take action

Other sessions look at early childhood and how nature can help us be happy and healthy and attract participants including childminders and Meithrin (Nursery) staff to name a few, an opportunity to help to start laying down positive environmental behaviours from an early age.

Two strategic projects have started with Flintshire and Carmarthenshire with the aim of increasing the amount of time spent teaching outside and the amount of environmental knowledge for staff and learners alike. Using the ‘Mantle of the Expert’ technique we played out how a mock pollution incident can be used to teach across the curriculum with one teacher describing putting it into practice with her learners as,

one of the most memorable, AMAZING weeks in my teaching career!

Our wider offer now includes a monthly newsletter packed with examples of good practice, our latest resources, interesting campaigns and funding updates and we are always looking for case studies to highlight good practice. All education settings also have the opportunity to engage with Acorn Antics and Wales Outdoor Learning Week, two campaigns which promote a connection to nature and positive environmental behaviour.

Well-being objective 6: Promote successful and responsible business, using natural resources without damaging them

We want Wales to be recognised as a great place to do business, embracing green growth, new sectors, research and innovation. As well as developing our own commercial activities, we want to encourage businesses to use resources efficiently and work towards a circular economy. We use our regulatory powers – permitting, monitoring to check compliance and enforcement – to protect the natural environment and to ensure that legitimate businesses are not undermined.

Linked Wales goals:

  • A prosperous Wales
  • A resilient Wales
  • A healthier Wales
  • A more equal Wales
  • A Wales of more cohesive communities
  • A Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language
  • A globally responsible Wales

Reflecting on our Business Plan dashboard progress for 2021/22, we:

  • regulated sites, and water quality discharges, with 100% of category 1 and 2 compliance breaches with appropriate regulatory response. Measure status: Green
  • offered 809,000m3 of timber to market. Measure status: Green
  • acted to implement our Commercial Strategy, preparing our annual review. Measure status: Green
  • updated our contribution following EU Exit, continuing to contribute to new environmental legislation and working with others. Measure status: Green

Looking forward, our Business Plan for 2022/23 includes our priority commitments for the coming year, including that next year we will:

  • Ddliver our statutory obligations to permit, ensure compliance and take enforcement action
  • ensure we can deliver our regulator and advisor roles in response to the rapid changes needed to deliver Net Zero whilst balancing overall environmental concerns in line with the Regulators’ Code
  • support Welsh Government in dealing with the legacy of centuries of mining, so works on at risk tips happen quickly

We have included more detail on a number of the above final measure positions as part of the delivery examples from 2021/22 which follow:

Working with others in supporting (green) recovery

Strong co-production is needed now more than ever. We are working with partners to enable the work of the Green Recovery Group.

Framed around recovery from the pandemic, the group delivers against collective priorities that will deliver for the climate and nature emergencies for both people and nature. Action is driven through the multi-agency owned Green Recovery Group and the Enabling the Environment Sector Group.

The multi-sectoral owned Green Recovery Group was convened in May 2020 to identify priorities for action for a green recovery with social justice as a guiding principle. They were also tasked to develop a shared plan to stabilise the environment third sector. The Group works together to develop and support the shared implementation of collective priorities, that will deliver action and outcomes for the climate and nature emergencies for both people and nature. Within the Green Recovery work, an ‘Enabling the Environment Sector Group’ has been set up with representation from environmental non-governmental organisations (eNGOs) and funders to drive collaborative strategic action on grant funding in Wales and wider funding opportunities in relation to environmental/nature outcomes in Wales.

Through the work of the partnership £5.3m has been allocated, primarily through the Welsh Local Government Association to local authorities and a selection of smaller projects. The Group also helped secure 900K of funding through the National Lottery Heritage Fund to support sector sustainability in a variety of areas, including support for organisational development such as Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) training.

The proposal for a National Nature Service (NNS) has also arisen from the outputs of the group. The NNS will be a Wales-wide system that mobilises people in support of nature recovery, acting as a platform that links people with nature-based training, apprenticeships, employment, enterprise, and volunteering.

Linked Wales goals:

  • A prosperous Wales
  • A resilient Wales (main linked goal)
  • A healthier Wales
  • A more equal Wales
  • A Wales of more cohesive communities
  • A Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language
  • A globally responsible Wales

Sustainable timber sales

We have successfully delivered a large timber sales programme and brought in £37 million this year to manage the Welsh Government Woodland Estate.

In 2021/22 we held four open competition sales events and invited offers for 290 timber lots totalling over 652,000 tonnes. This is the equivalent of 809,000m3 of standing trees and we achieved 97% of our target for the year. The Welsh Government Woodland Estate is readily capable of sustaining this level of production.

The timber market rose for much of the year until it settled in early 2022. The end of year income from timber sales was £37 million, arising from some 25,000 dispatches totalling 625,000 tonnes. The average prices being received currently are at a record high. The outlook for 2022/23 is that the market will remain volatile as Covid restrictions lift and the war in Ukraine creates supply uncertainties in Western Europe.

In line with recommendations from the trees and timber deep dive, and our Timber Sales and Marketing Plan, we established a project to develop alternative methods of selling (up to 30% of) timber - seeking to secure a range of values and benefits other than just income.

Across the UK there were 13 tree-work related fatalities in the year which is an unprecedented situation, and this resulted in a Board level discussion on NRW’s leadership role in Well-being, Health & Safety. We also conducted further staff training on sales contract management and took the step of terminating all our sales contracts with one customer who demonstrated unacceptable health & safety practices.

Linked Wales goals:

  • A prosperous Wales (main linked goal)
  • A resilient Wales

Changing commercial activity

We are delivering commercial projects on the estate we manage in a way that focuses on good economic value and achieving significant social and environmental benefits.

The Commercial Strategy 2021-2026 sets out the vision for how commercial activity in our organisation is going to change - better aligned with the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources and delivering positive action on the Climate and Nature emergencies. To do this we need to work with partners and stakeholders and pursue commercial projects that deliver across our 3P’s – People, Planet and Prosperity. We want to be agile in diversifying and innovating across our portfolio, whilst creating better mechanisms for working in partnership and measuring our performance.

The integration of these approaches has been progressing across the year, including working closely with our partners across the renewable energy sector looking for new ways to improve our Energy Delivery service. Our Timber Sales and Marketing team have instigated a project reviewing how we can provide alternative ways of purchasing up to 30% of our timber. We have developed a Commercial Innovation Programme which is exploring the delivery of a range of new commercial projects including natural burials, e-commerce merchandising, green finance, along with linking into early-stage academic research and development opportunities. We also continue to explore other commercial opportunities in sectors across arts, culture, recreation, and tourism.

We have provided renewed focus on delivering a more cohesive commercial service to partners both within our organisation, and to those we work with in other sectors. Our inaugural Commercial Network event has provided us with an opportunity to share our progress with more stakeholders externally, and we plan to continue these events into future years. Recent internal activity has also led to improvements in commercial support for areas such as filming rights and permissions - and there are further opportunities to build upon this progress within the commercial pipeline in 22/23.

Supporting renewable energy in Wales

A key focus for us in supporting delivery of renewable energy in Wales is the Deputy Minister for Climate Change’s deep dive into renewable energy. The deep dive sought to address opportunities and barriers to generating renewable energy to at least fully meet our energy needs, accelerating action to reduce energy demand and maximise local ownership retaining economic and social benefits in Wales.

We actively contributed to the deep dive, helped to shape recommendations and have since been proactively working to deliver recommendations relevant to us. We have been contributing to, for example: reviewing consenting mechanisms including an end-to-end review of marine licensing; developing the supporting environmental evidence base to steer sustainable renewable energy development; identifying resources for consenting and advice including securing long-term resource for our Offshore Renewable Energy Programme; streamlining offshore energy advice; supporting procurement improvements; and community engagement. We also continue to deliver our existing regulatory and advisory functions efficiently to support development of renewable energy schemes in Wales and have also advised on a number of Government consultations such as the UK National Policy Statements on Energy.

Our Commercial team have been working with Delivery teams to support the completion of the Clocaenog wind farm; engage with developers for both the Alwen and Bryn windfarms to finalise designs (pre-planning); negotiate lease terms for the Pant y Wal and Lluest y Gwynt wind farms and complete negotiations for Third party Access agreements for Foel Trawsnant and Upper Ogmore.

We have also been working closely with Welsh Government to support the setting up of the Renewable Energy Developer programme, undertaking feasibility work for Brechfa dau project and carrying out a desk top review of the wider estate to identify a pipeline of wind farm development opportunities.

Linked Wales goals:

  • A prosperous Wales
  • A resilient Wales
  • A more equal Wales
  • A Wales of more cohesive communities
  • A Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language
  • A globally responsible Wales (main linked goal)

Well-being objective 7: Develop NRW into an excellent organisation, delivering first class customer service

We want to be the best organisation we can be, for our staff, our customers, and the natural environment. This means we have undergone considerable change as an organisation. Completion of our staff restructure enabled us to focus on developing our organisation to support staff and customers to meet personal and business objectives.

Linked Wales goals:

  • A prosperous Wales
  • A resilient Wales
  • A healthier Wales
  • A more equal Wales
  • A Wales of more cohesive communities
  • A Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language
  • A globally responsible Wales

Reflecting on our Business Plan dashboard progress for 2021/22, we:

  • acted on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, our Board approving our new organisational strategy for Diversity and Inclusion. Measure status: Green
  • developed and implemented a People Strategy, with priority actions underway or complete in line with the action plan. Measure status: Green
  • focussed on Customer Experience, though planned activity on customer journey mapping has not progressed as originally anticipated, and will progress in 2022/23. Measure status: Red
  • delivered on Stakeholder Engagement, and a related stakeholder perceptions audit is being analysed. Measure status: Green
  • implemented our Covid-19 renewal programme, including activity to enable or support hybrid working. Measure status: Amber

Looking forward, our Business Plan for 2022/23 includes our priority commitments for the coming year, including that next year we will:

  • implement Adfywio – our Renewal programme following the Covid-19 pandemic
  • build relationships and trust with our communities
  • provide funding to partners delivering priority outcomes for the environment and people of Wales
  • market up to 750,00 m3 timber from the Welsh Government Woodland Estate, marketing up to 30% using alternative mechanisms

We have included more detail on a number of the above final measure positions as part of the delivery examples from 2021/22 which follow:

Adfywio - our renewal programme following the Covid-19 pandemic

Over the last year we established Adfywio - our Renewal programme following the Covid-19 pandemic. Adfywio seeks to learn lessons from our response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and to transform the way we provide some of our services - addressing the climate and nature emergencies, as well as assisting the people and economy of Wales to sustainably recover from the impacts of the Covid-19.

Focus areas include buildings, travel, and technology, and we have:

  • Set out the core principles for accommodation that will drive the changes needed to reduce emissions, adapt to climate change, and address the nature emergency
  • Identified the tools needed to enable hybrid working from locations across Wales
  • Delivered several improvements including in relation to ICT systems, tools and support for remote working and room booking.
  • Identified the people policies and procedures that need to change to support and enable hybrid working
  • Engaged with staff to better understand attitudes to hybrid working

Linked Wales goals:

  • A prosperous Wales
  • A resilient Wales

Improving our customer service on high-volume enquiries

We have improved how we respond to customer enquiries this year, drawing on customer and staff feedback. Our updated approach has enabled us to improve our customer service and alleviate staff pressure through providing consistent and timely responses to customer requests.

Our organisation’s Customer Hub received over 28,0000 general enquiries last year via phone or email. As part of our customer strategy, and in line with our SMNR principles, we have proactively collaborated and engaged with staff and customers to improve how we respond to high-volume customer enquiries. Activity included how we gather and use customer insight to form the basis of our decision making and subsequent improvements to how we use technology to ensure we are delivering first class customer service.

Particular customer concerns (e.g. hunting, and general bird licences) result in a significant increase in all types of customer contact, from simple enquiries and social media activity to more complex freedom of information requests. This can impact our ability to meet expected customer service standards and also has an impact on staff across the organisation who respond to these requests. We have been more proactive when handling significant issues; Including developing standard responses which are clear and consistent - enabling us to respond more promptly to our customers with timely, accurate information at times where we have a significant volume of customer requests.

Linked Wales goals:

  • A prosperous Wales (main linked goal)

Clare Pillman, Chief Executive and Accounting Officer - 13 July 2022

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