Last year the Senedd became the first parliament in the world to declare a "nature emergency".

The nature emergency exists alongside the climate crisis - the two are intimately linked - reflecting the loss of wildlife and plant species observed here in Wales and across the world as result of factors including intensive farming, land development, and more frequent extreme weather events.

Back in 2019, government agencies and conservation organisations compiled a report - The State of Natureon the health of UK wildlife.

It found that there had been a 40 percent decline in UK wildlife abundance since 1970, when rigorous scientific monitoring of the issue began, with butterflies and moths suffering the greatest losses.

Here in Wales, at least 73 wildlife species have been lost - including turtle doves and corn bunting birds - with one in six species are currently at risk of extinction.

Though the Senedd was praised for its nature emergency declaration last year, this week the Welsh Government came under fire from environmental groups over a perceived lack of action.

The loss of natural spaces - meadows, woodland, wildflower fields - to new developments across Wales has become a recurring theme in recent months and years.

Here are four such habitats under threat across Wales.

 

Northern Meadows, Cardiff

For years, campaigners in Whitchurch, Cardiff, have been protesting the planned build of a new Velindre cancer centre on the local Northern Meadows, 23 acres of grass and woodland.

The meadowland is almost entirely bordered by Forest Farm, a nature reserve designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its 200 year-old oak and beech trees, and the freshwater Glamorgan canal where kingfishers and herons still hunt.

Local opposition to development on the land has been ongoing since 1990s.

In the case of the new Velindre cancer centre, campaigners say that its construction will "break up an important wildlife corridor, ruin a historic representation of Welsh industrial history, and disrupt pedestrian access to public amenities", fearing damage to the Forest Farm Reserve alongside the destruction of the meadowland.

Wild spaces across Wales are under threat from development. (Pictures:  Gareth James; Colin Kinnear)A female kingfisher at Forest Farm, Cardiff. (Picture: Gareth James)

Planning permission for the standalone Velindre centre on the meadow was granted in 2018.

Save The Northern Meadows - led by environmentalist and cancer survivor Cat Lewis - argue that the facility would better serve patients as an extension to an existing hospital, where they would have swifter access to emergency healthcare facilities if needed.

Co-Locate Velindre, a group set up by local doctors, agrees.

"We expect any new cancer centre in South East Wales to be ‘co-located’ with a large hospital," the group writes on its website.

"This is a matter of health equality in Wales and through the whole UK."

Wild spaces across Wales are under threat from development. (Pictures:  Gareth James; Colin Kinnear)Woodland at the Northern Meadows.

The ongoing campaign to save the Northern Meadows has been fraught, with Ms Lewis losing a legal challenge against the Welsh Government - which is supporting the Velindre development - and protestors attempting to block lorries from entering the site as preparation works began.

Two women - aged 36 and 69 - were arrested late last year when they occupied the land.

Wild spaces across Wales are under threat from development. (Pictures:  Gareth James; Colin Kinnear)Plastic foliage is draped over fencing at the site of felled trees in the Northern Meadows. (Picture: Siriol Griffiths)

Pontsarn

Back in April, a community campaign sprung up near Merthyr Tydfil to protect green space at Pontsarn from being developed by Dŵr Cymru (Welsh Water).

Dŵr Cymru intends to construct a single 100-acre water treatment works on land which is currently a family farm.

This facility is planned to replace three smaller works at Pontsticill, Cantref and Llwyn-on, which the water provider says are "aging and have become increasingly difficult to maintain."

Locals set up a Facebook group - now at near 3,000 members - to oppose the plans, and have held protests and public meetings in the months since.

READ MORE: Pontsarn: public meeting held to oppose and protest Welsh Water plans

The land at Pontsarn - near to Merthyr's well-known viaduct - has been used by the Parry family of Gurnos Farm since 1950, and the area is a much-loved beauty spot for walking. 

But Dŵr Cymru says that the treatment works site is "essential to replace three existing treatment works in the area which are nearing the end of their operational life."

Wild spaces across Wales are under threat from development. (Pictures:  Gareth James; Colin Kinnear)Plans are afoot to build a huge water treatment facility on 100 acres of farmland in Pontsarn, near Merthyr

Campaigners disagree - among them, Professor Sir Mansel Aylward, one of Wales' leading public health physicians and academics. 

"This is such a deliterious project for this area and others," Sir Mansel told a public campaign   meeting. 

"We cannot let this project go ahead. We've got to be militant. We've got to be decisive. 

An online petition set up to oppose the water treatment works has so far gained just under 2,000 signatures.

 

Penrhos Coastal Park

This Ynys Môn nature reserve - designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) since 1967 - is the planned site of a £120m holiday village.

English developers Land and Lakes intend to fell 27 acres of ancient woodland within the conservation area in order to build 500 chalets for use as short-term holiday lets.

The project was personally endorsed by Ken Skates, then Economy minister for the Welsh Government, back in 2016 - who said the resort would boost tourism and create jobs.

Back in April, Hilary Paterson-Jones, leader of the Save Penrhos Coastal Park Holyhead campaign group, told our sister title, Corgi Cymru, that she would "tie myself to a tree" to put a stop to the plans.

READ MORE: The campaign to Save Penrhos Coastal Park in Holyhead

"I live in Morawelon - one of the ten poorest places in Wales - and I can walk to Penrhos easily," Hilary said at the time.

At 65 years old, the campaigner has been using the park since her mother took her there as a baby.

Wild spaces across Wales are under threat from development. (Pictures:  Gareth James; Colin Kinnear)Penrhos Coastal Park (Picture: Colin Kinnear)

"This is the only woodland for 17 miles and it is busy here every day, with people going for walks.

"That has increased significantly since Covid and in the last 18 months, our membership has doubled to 10,000."

As part of its planning permission for the project - under a regulation known as Section 106 - Land and Lakes is required make good for any loss or damage caused as they develop the holiday village.

Back in April 2021, the firm submitted three new planning applications to the local council, seeking a discharge from the conditions attached to the 106 agreement.

They have since agreed to create a new nature reserve on neighbouring land at Cae Glas, a former dumping site for toxic waste produced by the now-closed Angelsey Aluminium works.

This, local planning manager Rhys Lloyd Jones told Corgi Cymru in June this year, would "mitigate the impact" of demolishing the Penrhos site and turning it into a holiday village.

For local campaigners, this is unacceptable.

 

 

"There is a toxic heap where they want to build a nature reserve," Hilary Paterson-Jones said of the plan.

"Cae Glas has been closed to the public for many years - there are signs prohibiting people from going there.

“Now they are going to create a nature reserve? God forbid.”

 

Model Farm

Another family farm under threat by developers is Model Farm, the Vale of Glamorgan.

The Jenkins tenant farming family has lived and worked on the land since 1935, but multinational financial giant, Legal & General, who own the land near Rhoose, has received planning permission to build a business park there.

A mixed beef and arable enterprise, the farm is also a wildflower plantation, with the Jenkins family selling seeds via the internet and providing free seeds to local schools.

“It’s breaking my heart," Gethin Jenkins, 65, told The National last summer.

"Sometimes I can push it to the back of my mind but then I’ll be out on the combine and the realisation will hit me.

READ MORE: Echoes of the past for family evicted from farm after 85 years

"I’ll stop the engine, look out across the land and realise that soon, those fields and that view will no longer be there, and it’ll never be the same again.”

After a high-profile protest and the quashing of Vale council's initial planning decision over "irregularities" in the original application, Legal & General has resubmitted its plans.

Wild spaces across Wales are under threat from development. (Pictures:  Gareth James; Colin Kinnear)Protests to save Model Farm have been ongoing.

The campaign set up in opposition, meanwhile, has won the cross-party backing of both Welsh Conservatives leader Andrew RT Davies and local Plaid Cymru councillors.

Last month, TV presenter and naturalist Iolo Williams lent his support.

In a short video message, Mr Williams called for the farm to be saved from development, and said: “I just wanted to lend my support to Model Farm, Rhoose, to stay as a wildlife farm and not be developed. 

“I think it is a real travesty that the locals and Wales is under threat of losing such a valuable wildlife habitat.

"Good luck Model Farm in your battle.” 

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