The authors of the report 'Cherished Uplands', commissioned by
the Brecknockshire Agricultural Society to mark its 250th anniversary,
have called upon the Welsh Assembly Government to launch an inquiry
into the future of the hills and uplands. They also want to promote
further debate with a major conference, organised to bring together
specialist expertise and user and producer interests.
Professors Peter Midmore and Richard Moore-Colyer of the University
of Wales, Aberystwyth, found that some 'hard choices' had to be
made if the future of the Upland areas with their valued contribution
to Wales's national quality of life is to be secured. The hills
and uplands, they argue, are 'at a tipping point'. The effect of
the Single Farm Payment is uncertain and there are many more political,
economic, and global threats.
The report traces the development of the uplands from the mid
1700s which is when the Brecknockshire Agricultural Society was
set up. And it offers two possible outcomes, depending on policy.
The one is relatively benign, but urgent action is needed to avoid
the other, where land abandonment and environmental degradation
The study drew on case histories of individual hill and upland
farms to help form its conclusions. These are that the Uplands
play a pivotal role in terms of culture, recreation, environment,
and national identity, and that this outweighs the agricultural
The status quo is not an option, so in order to maintain that
role, continued and even expanded support is vital, returns from
the market will be critical, and improved public confidence in,
and affinity towards, agriculture is needed.
The main recommendations are that:
A minimum level of production is required, in terms of keeping
an appropriate mix of sheep and cattle on upland farms, under expanded
and retargeted agri-environment schemes.
Agri-environment schemes should involve and utilise the valuable
knowledge within the farming community. Local groups representing
farmers and other key stakeholders would have the opportunity to
engage in collaborative marketing, promotions, and integrated planning
of tourism and leisure use developments.
Community managed 'wild' areas should be established for public
benefit, where there is a selective and voluntary withdrawal of
There should be an honest appraisal of the way in which National
Park planning powers limit or obstruct development. And there needs
to be fundamental reform which recognises the interaction between
sustainable development and landscape conservation.
The Welsh Assembly Government should promote further debate, through
a major conference, and the National Assembly's Environment, Planning
and Countryside Committee should launch an inquiry into the future
of the hills and uplands.
Brecknockshire Agricultural Society President, William Legge-Bourke,
said he hoped the report would concentrate the minds of government,
economists, and conservationists. He wanted the study to have relevance
further afield to both England and Scotland as well as parts of
"We all have responsibilities in recognising that farming
is the vital management tool for preserving the heritage and long
term environmental integrity of the hills and uplands which cover
so much of the Welsh landscape", he added.
Mr Legge-Bourke said it was appropriate in the 250th Anniversary
of the Brecknockshire Agricultural Society to commission a serious
study of the likely problems and opportunities for the uplands.
It continued a tradition begun in the earliest days of the society's
history of trying to educate and encourage innovation and excellence
The report has been produced by the Brecknockshire Agricultural
Society with the help of the Institute of Welsh Affairs. There
has been financial and other support from the Welsh Development
Agency, as well as from the Brecon Beacons National Park and the
Not So Perfect For Uplands Without Help