National Park Support for Calon Cymru’s Ambitious Regeneration Plans
Have you heard of Calon Cymru Network?
Maybe not – yet.
Calon Cymru is a group aiming to spark regeneration in West and Mid Wales, along the Heart of Wales railway corridor, the rural section between Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire via Llandovery and Llandrindod Wells to Craven Arms, over the border in Shropshire. Not just any regeneration, but development which has a positive impact, and never a big negative impact, on our natural resources.
I declare an interest because I am a member, and have seen the Network, which is a community interest company, grow over six years, from its founding nucleus of architects concerned about unsustainable lifestyles, to a collaboration of professionals from planning, transport, agriculture, energy and forestry, with the common aim of breathing new life into rural Wales.
Thanks to funding from the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, Calon Cymru is about to appoint an administrator to co-ordinate the next phase of the project.
The team includes half a dozen architects, all enthusiasts for building with local, renewable materials such as timber and straw. The architects are Calon Cymru founders Martin Golder, Ken Pearce and Wilf Burton, and Richard Biddulph, Nick Dummer, Mark Waghorn, and his architectural assistant Lewys Jones. Planners Bob Eaton and Steve Packer, transport expert Professor Paul Salveson, Heart of Wales Line Forum development officers David Edwards and Gill Wright, sustainable food and nutrition specialist Amber Wheeler, sustainable farming adviser Tony Little, and One Planet Council patrons James Shorten and David Thorpe, are all on board.
The One Planet Council – of which Jane Davidson, former environment, sustainability and housing minister in the Welsh Government, is also a patron – promotes the ‘One Planet’ planning policies of the Welsh Government, which allows people to settle in the countryside and earn a living from it, as long as they abide by stringent regulations and steadily reduce their demand on the Earth’s resources. The ultimate aim is to use only those resources which Earth can replenish – and not three or four planets’ worth, as in the UK today.
James Shorten is the planner who wrote the technical guidance for Wales’ One Planet policy, and now runs Geo & Co Ltd, a consultancy for sustainable rural strategy. David Thorpe specialises in renewable energy technologies and is the author of several books, including ‘The One Planet Life’.
“It has taken quite a while to put the right group together,” said Martin Golder, one of the founders, who lives in Powys, “but now we have the chance to convince the Welsh Government of the strategic importance of rural Wales in general, and the Heart of Wales corridor in particular. We have all been worried about the lack of jobs, the exodus of young people and the withdrawal of public services, and as well as bringing empty properties back into use, we want to work with landowners to create new settlement which harmonises with and energises rural communities.
Currently, Calon Cymru is preparing a bid to the Arwain programme in Powys County Council for European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development money to help develop the vision into practical projects – such as timber, food and drink enterprises, renewable energy, and engineering research and development.
“The lack of a stable, viable regional economy is probably the main problem for mid Wales. Tourism and public sector employment are not enough. We reckon that the Heart of Wales corridor, and its railway, could do much more than at present to feed Wales with vegetables and fruit as well as livestock products,” said Martin. “Expanded woodlands, too, will be of increasing importance in construction and small-scale manufacturing, according to our analysis. These are the activities that would provide an economic backbone”
“Wales now has the Future Generations Act, outlawing any development or policy which prejudices the life chances of future inhabitants of the nation, and our plans are wholly in tune with this.”