THE government has been accused of living in a “day dream” over its plans to have a new national park in Wales.

In its 2021 election manifesto, Welsh Labour promised to turn the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) into a national park.

Local farmers and councillors in the area that will see the park have warn the move will create extra red tape and increase the danger of more mountain fires.

Opponents of the scheme fear the government will ignore local concerns and turn the area into a “playground for the middle classes”.

The AONB in north-east Wales would join Snowdonia, Brecon Beacons and the Pembrokeshire coast, becoming the country’s first new national park in 50 years.

The area boasts a Unesco world heritage site in the Pontcysyllte aqueduct and stretches from the hills of Prestatyn down to the rural hinterland around Llangollen.

Plans are now proceeding to set up the new national park.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We are committed to creating a new national park for Wales – the first in more than half a century – covering the breathtaking Clwydian Range and Dee Valley.”

But there is opposition locally to the idea of having a national park in the area, with one farmer’s group slamming the move as a “betrayal”.

Farmers Union of Wales Denbigh and Flint county executive officer Mari Dafydd Jones said: “When the Clwydian Range AONB was extended in 2011, this was railroaded through despite the majority of respondents having responded to the consultation objecting to the plans. That in itself was a betrayal which has led to additional restrictions, red tape and costs for residents of the area, including farmers. In an attempt to sweeten the pill at the time, there was promise made that the area would not become a national park.”

She added: “These plans therefore mark a further betrayal, and if they go through it will mean more costs, restrictions and problems for local residents in order to create a recreational area for others. There is a real feeling in this area that the Welsh Government wants to override the concerns of working people to create designated playgrounds for the middle classes.”

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Cllr Huw Williams who farms in the area was also opposed to the area, saying it did not have the infrastructure to cope with extra tourists.

He said: “We can’t cope with the visitors we’ve got here now. Our roads are blocked, we’ve got problems with people parking, we’ve had big problems with dogs attacking sheep.

“We have in the region of 250,000 visitors just to Moel Famau. So with a national park and the extra visitors that means it’s just going to heap misery on local people.”

His fellow area county councillor, Merfyn Parry, who also works in agriculture, raised concerns that the park could see attempts to cut back on hill farming in the area, something he fears could see a repeat of 2018’s Llantysilio Mountain fire which devastated the hills around Llangollen.

He said: “I’m not in favour if it at all until we have a good conversation for the government to explain how it’s going to work. I can see it restricting what local farms and businesses.

“They would like to encourage less sheep grazing within the parks, well we only have to look at the Llantysilio Mountain fire which was made worse was because of the lack of management and grazing so it grew wild and the whole lot went up and whatever biodiversity was lost.”

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