The Autumn edition of Rural Wales was delivered to members of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales today. First page was my President's Message - which follows;
I have contributed several articles to our excellent magazine, Rural Wales over the last few years. This is my first contribution as your President.
Some of my friends were surprised to see me take up this position with CPRW because so much of my work in public life over the last 30 years has been concerned with the promotion of economic development in Rural Wales. I counter this by telling them that they suffer a misconception about what CPRW is. It therefore seems appropriate that in my first editorial, I outline what I see as our role in the life of Rural Wales.
My friends see CPRW as a body that 'opposes everything'. Since they know that I don't, my appointment intrudes into this perception. We cannot be opposed to the principle of new housing, new factories and new roads - and retain credibility. However we can demand that these new developments take place with as much sympathy for our landscapes and as much respect for our quality of life in Rural Wales as possible. Sometimes this means higher cost and inconvenience to developers. So be it. Sometimes our view will be that the damage to Rural Wales will outweigh the benefit, and in such cases we will oppose the developments.
My friends also dismiss CPRW as no more than 'anti wind farm protesters'. They will know that I do not hold such an absolute position myself. But they will know that I am deeply sceptical about on shore wind farms, largely because they seem an inefficient way of generating power and require large public subsidies to be economic. They will also know that I have been strongly critical of Assembly Government policy which gives a virtual 'carte blanche' to multiple wind farm developments in specific regions of Rural Wales. In my opinion, any organisation charged by its membership to protect Rural Wales is bound to adopt such a sceptical attitude.
However, the CPRW is about so much more. We are concerned about our local communities and the services that support them. We are opposed, wherever possible, to the closure of our local schools and to our local post offices. We recognise that the Welsh Language and Welsh culture are an integral part of what makes Rural Wales special. When I tell my friends that I want all development to be as respectful of our special environment as possible and that I want to protect the cultural uniqueness of what makes Rural Wales the special place that it is, they are much less surprised that I am writing this editorial.