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Concern raised over future direction of Bannau Brycheiniog/Brecon Beacons national park

Rural campaigners have expressed concern about the future direction of Bannau Brycheiniog National Park, which announced this week that it will use its Welsh language name only in future, while restricting sheep grazing in favour of wind farming.

The switch - to Bannau Brycheiniog National Park - takes effect on Monday, its 66th anniversary.

While the move has been welcomed by some, others, including MPs and Senedd members have questioned the decision.

As well as the name change, a plan has also been announced to restore tree cover, wetlands, hedgerows, and wildflowers to attract wildlife while introducing localised renewable energy sources such as small wind turbines.

Local people will be encouraged to farm in a way that benefits nature, such as restricting grazing to certain areas, leaving a cover crop over winter for birds to eat and not spreading manure or fertiliser where it could contaminate watercourses.

Rachel Evans, a farmer and Director of Countryside Alliance Wales said the move away from sheep grazing could end up having devastating consequences.

She said: “The revelation that the chief executive’s future vision for the National Park is to have wind turbines and less sheep smacks of a real departure from the reality of the management of this working landscape. Less sheep will result in more, unmanaged vegetation which could in turn mean more, dangerous, wildfires.

“Like all fires, wildfires need three elements to live: oxygen, a heat source such as a lightning or a match, and fuel in the form of dry vegetation. Wildfires will travel to any place where there is an abundance of those elements and can spread rapidly with the help of wind. ”

She added: “ Of course climate change will also mean more wildfires but the balance has to be recognised and this only fuels speculation about a supposedly anti-farming agenda by the National Park”.

Brecon and Radnorshire's Tory MP Fay Jones questioned the cost and impact of the 'symbolic' rebrand and demanded to know why locals were not consulted.

Catherine Mealing-Jones, the national park authority's chief executive, claimed the link with a wood-burning, carbon-emitting blazing beacon was 'not a good look' as the name was dropped in favour of its Welsh counterpart Bannau Brycheiniog.

She said: “Given that we're trying to provide leadership on decarbonisation, a giant burning brazier is not a good look.

“Our park is shaped by Welsh people, Welsh culture, and as we looked into it we realised the brand we've got and the name we've got, it's a bit of a nonsense, it doesn't really make any sense - the translation Brecon Beacons doesn't really mean anything in Welsh.

But she acknowledged that “people are used to calling the park by the name everyone's used for 66 years so we don't expect everyone to use Bannau Brycheiniog, at least straight away”.

On the decision to re-brand, Ms Evans said: “ It has obviously ruffled a few feathers in the countryside, not because the park have finally chosen to be known only as the Welsh name ‘Bannau Brycheiniog’ but the for the fact this this was not consulted upon with any of its inhabitants and the communities.

“For those of us lucky enough to live and work in this intricate managed landscape and who speak Welsh, it has more often than not always been referred to as “y Bannau Brycheiniog”  and it is difficult to accept that this official name change is somehow revolutionary and new when in it has been it’s official name for us since the year dot.

She explained: “Suggesting that the logo of a burning beacon somehow relates to some sort of incitement of wildfires is just ridiculous and has sparked an unnecessary row which could have been totally avoided. There is a feeling that, for some, the countryside is an experimental playground. It isn’t. The Welsh countryside is part of our identity and it is vital quangos and park authorities consult on all changes”.

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