‘Was this wildlife pond re­ally such a big deal?’

Bangor Mail - - AGICULTURE SHOW -

AN el­derly farmer felt the full wrath of govern­ment af­ter cre­at­ing an il­le­gal wildlife pond that left him with a hefty bill and three years of mis­ery.

Fred Meakin was left baf­fled by the turn of events which saw him threat­ened with pros­e­cu­tion, en­force­ment and fi­nan­cial penal­ties by the Welsh Govern­ment.

The re­tired An­gle­sey farmer has now been or­dered to fill in his na­ture-friendly pond at Graigfryn Bach, Bryn­teg.

If he doesn’t Nat­u­ral Re­sources Wales (NRW) will send in its own dig­gers and leave an in­voice, he claimed.

Iron­i­cally Mr Meakin, 76, wasn’t able to com­ply un­til NRW had sur­veyed his pond for en­dan­gered species such as the Great Crested Newt.

If any had been found, he could have been forced to pay the costs of re­lo­cat­ing them from his own pond.

Last week NRW fin­ished the study and con­firmed no pro­tected species were present.

Mr Meakin said he will now com­plete the re­me­di­a­tion or­der but he has been left sad­dened by the en­force­ment ac­tion.

“All we did was built a wildlife pond in the mid­dle of a small field miles from any­where,” he said. “All of a sud­den we were threat­ened with all sorts.”

The pond was dug three years ago at Graigfryn Bach af­ter Mr Meakin re­in­stated eroded river­banks along Afon Lligwy.

To feed his new pond he in­stalled in­let and out­let pipes from the river.

Months later the work came to the at­ten­tion of the Welsh Govern­ment’s en­vi­ron­ment and coun­try­side team, which is­sued Mr Meakin with a stop notice.

The el­derly bach­e­lor was warned he faced de­duc­tions from his EU pay­ment as the land is part of a semi-nat­u­ral area that is home to im­por­tant wild flow­ers.

The site also lies ad­ja­cent to the Cors Erd­drein­iog na­ture re­serve, which re­lies on al­ka­line water drain­ing into its wet­lands for its dis­tinc­tive fen plants.

Mr Meakin was later handed a Re­me­di­a­tion Notice de­mand­ing he re­turn the land to its pre­vi­ous con­di­tion.

He protested the pond was now es­tab­lished and had wild flow­ers, birds, ducks and a wide va­ri­ety of in­sects.

“The whole thing just didn’t make sense,” he said.

“For years the NRW and RSPB have been en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to cre­ate ponds for wildlife. The Welsh Govern­ment even gives grants to farm­ers to cre­ate and re­store wildlife ponds. I couldn’t see why they were giv­ing me all this grief.”

When the stress caused his health to de­te­ri­o­rate, he con­tacted NFU Cymru for help.

How­ever an ap­peal hear­ing at Tre Ys­gawen Hall, An­gle­sey, was post­poned when, at the eleventh hour, the ap­pel­lants were handed a 660-page tech­ni­cal re­port by NRW’s Not­ting­ham­based le­gal team. At the rear- ranged hear­ing, at the same venue, Mr Meakin’s ap­peal was re­jected, the in­spec­torate cit­ing the pond’s lack of en­vi­ron­men­tal sig­nif­i­cance.

His case was later taken up by farm con­sul­tant Heidi Wil­liams of CNG Farm and Coun­try, but she was un­able to un­pick the rul­ing’s tech­ni­cal con­clu­sions.

“It is a real shame a com­mon sense ap­proach was not fol­lowed,” she said. “I sym­pa­thise with Fred, who in all in­no­cence just tried to es­tab­lish a wildlife haven. Sadly, how­ever, we all need to ad­here to the rules.”

An NRW spokes­woman con­firmed the pond was sub­ject to a Welsh Govern­ment re­me­di­a­tion notice fol­low­ing an ap­peal, pub- lic hear­ing and min­is­te­rial con­fir­ma­tion.

She said ac­tion was taken un­der the En­vi­ron­men­tal Im­pact As­sess­ment Reg­u­la­tions due to the “con­struc­tion of a pond and other works on areas of val­ued fen habi­tat”.

She added: “On July 23, on the re­quest of the Welsh Govern­ment, one of our of­fi­cers checked the newly cre­ated pond and found no pro­tected species present.”

Mr Meakin now has no op­tion but to start re­in­state­ment work, which he reck­ons will cost him thou­sands.

He has been left chas­tened by feel­ing the full might of govern­ment de­scend upon him.

“At the ap­peal hear­ings there were govern­ment of­fi­cials from all parts of Wales, the plan­ning in­spec­torate from Cardiff and a so­lic­i­tor from Not­ting­ham – this hap­pened not only once but twice,” he said.

“They made feel like I was re­spon­si­ble for an en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter – but it was just a small wildlife pond in Bryn­teg.”

To en­sure he fully com­plies with the re­me­di­a­tion or­der, the land may be in­spected over two years to as­sess if its nat­u­ral flora has re­turned.

The pond lies close to Cors Erd­drein­iog, a na­tional wet­land na­ture re­serve

The pond, viewed from above, dug by Fred Meakin (right)

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