NRW – protecting Wales’ environment during the Covid-19 crisis

Natural Resources Wales’ (NRW) commitment to protecting the environment remains steadfast, the body’s Chief Executive confirmed today as colleagues focus their efforts on the highest priority issues while working against the Covid-19 backdrop.

NRW is working closely with the Welsh Government and partners to ensure the right measures are put in place to protect our colleagues, the public and our natural resources from the effects of the Coronavirus outbreak.

And while the pace of some activity has had to slow - and others inevitably have had to stop- NRW is fully aware that Wales’ communities, businesses and the environment continue to rely heavily on the critical services we provide – particularly those recently affected by flooding caused by Storms Ciara and Dennis.

This also includes the support and guidance offered around licences and permits, and the important work NRW does to ensure that the environment and natural resources of Wales are sustainably maintained, enhanced and used, now and in the future.

Clare Pillman, CEO of NRW said 

“The overriding priority for everyone at this time is to do all we can to protect ourselves and others from Coronavirus, and to help save lives. The best way to do this is to stay at home.
“Taking this national situation into full consideration, NRW is prioritising its work to ensure we can sustain the delivery of our priority services. That is why, right across Wales, you will still see our vehicles and colleagues working on critical issues like pollution and flood prevention, managing timber felling contractors and visiting our forests and national nature reserves to ensure visitors are adhering to public health guidelines. We will also continue to attend significant environmental incidents should these occur. Wherever this work is taking place, it is being done in accordance with the public health guidelines.
“A thriving and accessible natural environment will remain vital to the nation during, and as we recover from the Coronavirus crisis and NRW is committed to ensuring that it can be protected and celebrated for generations to come.”

Examples of high priority work taking place across Wales include:

  • Flood protection

We anticipate that the work we have underway as part of the flood risk management capital programme will be impacted by the controls we and government have put in place. Our current focus is on critical inspections, project feasibility on detailed design and planning activities in preparation to undertake construction work in full once the impacts of the COVID 19 outbreak ease.  

Some flood construction defence work goes on and, where work continues, we have ensured that everyone involved can adhere to social distancing practices.

Demolition work is ongoing at Crindau in Newport as part of a scheme to increase flood protection until the site can be made safe, and work progresses in Dwyran and Llangefni.

Flood risk management specialists across NRW are also considering how to address issues at a number of sites that may need remedial works following the recent floods caused by Storm Dennis and Storm Ciara.

The Northern Embankment in Sealand is a major flood defence structure which protects people and property from the impacts of flooding in this area of Flintshire. Colleagues have been undertaking critical work moving large items of timber, stranded on the river side of the northern flood embankment after the February storms and high tides.

Post flood investigations and inspections on our structures and embankments are also taking place in North Powys. Assessments are also being made as to whether defence work can start on culverts in Whitebarn and Gwydyr forest in the Conwy Valley and at Ely Bridge near Cardiff. 

Responses to the consultation on the options to manage the flood risk in Dinas Powys closed on 15 April are now being considered and will help inform the business case on tackling this important project.

  • Commercial forestry

Tree felling work is taking place as planned to meet industry demand for timber in the Brecon Beacons National Park and Cambrian Mountains. Work also continues across the forestry in the Sirhowy Valley – which is currently closed to visitors - to fell 70 hectares of diseased larch.

  • Regulation

We're helping regulated businesses adjust and adapt to these extraordinary circumstances in which everyone’s resources and capacities are severely constrained. This includes supporting regulated operators and individuals to understand and comply with environmental regulations through these challenging times.

We're clear we expect everyone we regulate to continue to comply with environmental regulations and their permit conditions. This includes developing contingency plans and putting appropriate measures in place to ensure that all reasonable actions are taken to foresee and mitigate any potential issues. 

  • Forest fires

NRW is working with the fire and rescue service, police and other partners through Operation Dawns Glaw to prevent and tackle forest fires. The recent good weather has seen an increase in wildfires which have impacted on the environment and wildlife, polluting the air and water.  NRW officers are providing the emergency services with advice on accessing forest sites and provide helicopter assistance for the movement of water.

  • Pollution monitoring

Routine work at NRW’s testing laboratory at Swansea University has been scaled back to allow social distancing measures to be put in place. Work is set to continue on the testing of pollution samples as part of NRW’s pollution incident response. 

  • Our land

NRW’s car parks, mountain bike trails and visitor centres remain closed in line with current guidance which also advises against unnecessary travel. As part of our responsibility to maintain the public’s access to nature in a safe way, our forestry teams continue to patrol our car parks to ensure that local people are accessing walking trails in a socially responsible way. 

We continue to carry out livestock checks to ensure the welfare of NRW livestock on our National Nature Reserves and maintain annual arrangements with local graziers on these sites where appropriate.

We are also carrying out essential centre duties such as feeding the red kites on a daily basis at the Bwlch Nant yr Arian Visitor Centre.

To report an incident, visit our website or call us on 0300 065 3000 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

Regular updates can also be found at our Twitter page @NatResWales and on Facebook.