Farmers claim Tywi cycle path puts livestock at risk
Are modern demands for biosecurity ousting the public from the countryside? Arguments over the proposed Carmarthen to Llandeilo cycle path and walkway highlight the issue. See also the Carmarthenshire Herald, September 16, p.5
Farmers in the Tywi valley are opposing Carmarthenshire County Council’s intention to reopen parts of the trackway of the former Llandeilo to Carmarthen railway, as a path for walkers and cyclists.
The county council’s ‘Towy Valley Cycleway’ is a venture to encourage leisure cycling, as well as walking, in a safe environment. Farmers, though, have numerous worries about the scheme.
The council’s Environment Department, headed by Ruth Mullen, has applied for permission from the Planning Department to create a path between Nantgaredig and Whitemill, using part of the former railway trackbed and an existing footpath which hugs the banks of the river Tywi/Towy.
For William Richard Lloyd Davies, of Cwm Farm, Abergorlech Road, Carmarthen, flooding is a large risk and he would rather the path ran alongside the A40, or formed part of Celtic Trail route 47, which extends across south Wales and takes in Llanelli and Kidwelly on the way to Carmarthen, completely avoiding the Tywi valley between Carmarthen and Llandeilo.
Mr Lloyd Davies has told the county council’s planning department that any elevation, even a slight one, “in the creation of the path, will act as a barrier for flood water to run back into the Tywi, and create additional and sustained flooding resulting in property damage and financial loss to myself as a land owner and to other landowners in the area.”
He says that the path plan conflicts with the Welsh Government’s strategic framework for the eradication of bovine TB in Wales, which requires the immediate imposition of movement restrictions once disease is suspected, keeping disease out of clean farms and preventing cattle from coming into contact with the pathogen.
Helen Scott of the Carmarthen Veterinary Centre has told the planning department that several clients along the proposed route contacted her with concerns. Miss Scott’s arguments include:
- There is no provision for biosecurity cleansing and disinfection.
- Disruption of boundaries could allow nose-to-nose contact between animals.
- Dogs could transmit Neospora caninum, a cause of bovine abortion, and worry livestock.
- Bovine TB, infectious bovine rhinotracheitis and Johnes disease could be transmitted.
- People could be in danger from livestock.
- Local wildlife could be disrupted.
The National Farmers Union has also put in a letter of objection on behalf of seven members. One is Clive Jones of Beili Glas, Whitemill. He points out that a “substantial part of the path will run alongside the River Tywi. As one of the land tenants occupying a part of the Tywi valley affected by the proposed development, I have over the years experienced the extensive, regular and unpredictable flooding from the River Tywi. I have grave concerns as to the danger the unpredictable water levels poses to the public using the proposed cycleway. I also have fears of the risk that the river holds even when not in flood, as sections of the proposed cycleway are located in a remote area, anyone who may be tempted away from the path to swim or jump into the river from the river bank could consequently find themselves in distress, with no assistance near by. There have been recent incidents on the Tywi river where such activities have been fatal.”
A detailed map of the proposed path shows exits via public and private rights of way in case of emergency. This map also has a cross section showing that the three-metre wide tarmac path, with one-metre verges on both sides, would be enclosed with wire mesh fencing supported by timber posts 1.2 metres high.
As regards safety, the riverside location has much in common with coastal beaches which carry ‘no swimming’ instructions when sea conditions are potentially dangerous, and at times of flood the path could be closed.
Natural Resources Wales has concerns of its own, about protected species, and is asking for further surveys. Dyfed Archaeological Trust wants protection for a Bronze Age round barrow and standing stone, and sections of Roman road. CADW, concerned about the round barrow, said: “unfortunately the application contains no information as to how the construction work will avoid damage to the scheduled monument”.
Llanegwad Community Council, though, has given its backing to the pathway plan, as has the Carmarthenshire Cycling Forum, which liaises with the county council, The cycling forum expects the creation of the path to take some time, and possibly require the use of Compulsory Purchase Orders.