A Mid and West Wales MS has urged the Welsh Government to consider enhancing existing planning regulations to help address the growing trend of Welsh farmland being purchased by multinational companies to plant trees for carbon offsetting purposes.
Speaking in the Senedd on Wednesday, 10 November, Plaid Cymru MS Cefin Campbell highlighted the growing concern within many communities about farmland being bought for unregulated tree-planting purposes by large multinational companies - thus having a detrimental impact on existing communities, food production and the local economy.
Under existing framework, the only obstacle for speculative companies to overcome is the Environmental Impact Assessment – however this does not consider the potential harm to communities, food production or culture.
Mr Campbell has rather called on the Welsh Government to urgently review the planning framework to better safeguard communities from these increasingly detrimental developments.
Mr Campbell, who is Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for agricultural and rural affairs said: “I have raised on a number of occasions my concerns around the current practice of individuals and companies from outside of Wales buying up whole farms with a view of planting trees for carbon offsetting purposes.
“This brazen ‘greenwashing’ might well ease the conscience of climate savvy multinationals, but it is hurting our rural communities.
“Over the past few weeks alone, I’ve met with residents in Cwrt-y-Cadno, Carmarthenshire, and Hermon, Pembrokeshire, who are extremely concerned about the prospect of farmland in their communities being covered with trees by these absentee landlords.
“The Welsh Government has previously acknowledged that there is potential for a real problem should such the trend continue, and with evidence mounting of momentum behind this practice, I am therefore of the firm view that the planning system must be reviewed to provide local control over the future of rural communities and allow residents to shape land use in their localities.’’
Previous research by Mr Campbell found that since 2015, over £1.3 million Welsh Government funding for tree planting has gone to applicants outside of Wales.