Cwm Cynwyn. Photo: Bob Tinley CC-BY-SA-2.0

Cwm Cynwyn. Photo: Bob Tinley CC-BY-SA-2.0

The Welsh Government  has said a ‘temporary’ fence across some of a national park’s highest land must go.

The fence, which runs close to the Brecon Beacons’ highest mountain Pen y Fan, was put up 10 years ago during the 2001 foot and mouth disease outbreak.

The 7km- (4½-mile-) long fence runs from south of the mountain at the Pontsticill Reservoir, across common land east of the summits of Cribyn and Pen y Fan and down to Cwm Cynwyn.

Campaigners at the Open Spaces Society welcomed the decision not to grant retrospective planning consent for the fence, and called on the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority to take enforcement action to ensure it is taken down.

The society said the barrier was erected by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs during the 2001 epidemic, but should have been removed within five years. Because the fence is on common land, it needs the consent of the Welsh environment minister.

“In September 2009, the Brecon Beacon Commoners’ Association applied for consent for the fence to remain,” an OSS spokesperson said. “The Open Spaces Society, Ramblers and National Trust were among the objectors.

“The Brecon Beacons National Park Authority and the Countryside Council for Wales asked for the decision to be delayed while they negotiated a management agreement for the land, but eventually the commoners pulled out of the negotiations and the case was decided by Stephen Jones on behalf of the Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development.

“Mr Jones needed to be satisfied that the fence ‘would benefit the neighbourhood’. He rejected the application because the fence ‘is visible from close views and it visually divides the extensive landscape of the commons’. He continued: ‘The fence acts as a barrier, both psychological and physical, to members of the public gaining access to land either side of it. The expected ability to roam anywhere over the commons is adversely affected by access across the fence being available via specific locations only’.

“He was also concerned that the applicants had given no indication of the management regime to be adopted if the fence was to be retained, nor of the levels of grazing and the effect on the vegetation. He did not consider that the arguments which were put forward by the commoners on the management of the commons justified overriding the general rights of access to the commons or the objections to the retention of the fence on visual grounds.”

Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society added: “This is an excellent outcome. The fence, which strides across the superb open landscape of the Brecon Beacons national park, is an eyesore and a severe impediment to public access. It is not the right solution to the management of these commons.

“We recognise that the area needs to be grazed and we have urged the Welsh Government to support traditional management regimes such as shepherding; these would create employment and remove the need for any fencing. We still hope that this will be possible under Glastir [a Welsh Government sustainable land-management scheme].

“Meanwhile, the fence is unlawful and must go. We are sending a formal complaint to the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority’s enforcement officer and asking that the authority takes steps to ensure that the ugly fencing is removed forthwith.”

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