The project so far
We want to help deliver change for nature at scale in the heart of Mid-Wales, from the Pumlumon massif to the depths of Cardigan Bay.
There have already been a number of changes in our structure and process in response to public concerns and suggestions, and we hope that our readiness to listen and be willing to adapt is proving how much we want this to succeed. In fact more than that: how having uncomfortable conversations, refocusing and finding ways through is itself the work of the project.
Here’s the story of the project so far.
Local ecologists started to discuss the potential for an ecological restoration project, and called a meeting in March with interested organisations and landowners. They followed this up by talking to over 200 people locally by the end of the year.
This early, voluntary work came to the attention of Rewilding Britain, and they were keen to support it. From June they put in some seed funding to support the next stage of discussions. The Waterloo Foundation also provided some initial support.
This ushered in a more formal stage, which started with a large meeting in Machynlleth in July with people from across the farming, business and conservation sectors. A concept note was submitted to a newly established fund called the Endangered Landscape Programme.
Partners and applications
More than 50 landowners were visited. Working groups formed to discuss ecological restoration, community engagement and business involvement. Ten organisations came forward as project partners.
All of these discussions led to the submission of a full funding application to the Endangered Landscapes Programme in April, which included invaluable input from the partners. The project was granted funding for five years, and was launched to the public as one of eight funded projects across Europe with the working title of Summit to Sea.
A small part-time project team – Project Coordinator, Marine Project Officer and Intern – began work. Project partners met for the first quarterly steering group meeting in November and a Project Director started in December.
Mapping and surveys
Coastal community engagement began in April, with project partner the Marine Conservation Society starting interviews using the Community Voice Method. 15 interviews took place with a range of people living on the coastal fringes of the project area.
RSPB began work on their Ynys Hir reserve, undertaking a step change in their lowland wet grassland management, whilst the Woodland Trust explored landowner interest in wildlife-friendly habitat. Work with coastal communities included holding workshops on marine mammal disturbance, promoting the marine code and exploring the idea of oyster aquaculture on the Dyfi.
Some initial work took place to map the nature-based economy of the area and begin to explore possible opportunities that would both support nature recovery and strengthen the local economy.
Several bird and moth surveys took place at habitats across the project area, with thanks to those landowners who agreed for this to take place. This has provided a baseline of ecological data alongside other existing sources.
A Community Engagement Officer and Project Administrator were appointed in the summer and began work at the project’s office in Machynlleth.
Since ELP funding was announced in October 2018 a growing group of people raised concerns about the project. Summit to Sea began consultation with this group, and in response Rewilding Britain agreed to leave the project in October 2019. The project partnership began the process of establishing new management for the project.
The initial restructuring of the engagement process of the project began at the end of the year with a series of community drop-in sessions held, in Machynlleth, Aberystwyth, Talybont, Tre’r Ddol, Llanidloes and Ponterwyd. These drop-ins served to answer questions on the project so far, and begin to get an idea of the hopes, concerns and priorities of people in the area. There is a summary of the issues most frequently raised at the drop-ins here.
A further two community drop-in sessions were held in Aberhosan and Llanbrynmair.
The team began compiling and reviewing the initial community feedback, suggestions and ideas raised so far. More drop-ins and informal ‘Paned y Prosiect’ sessions were planned, but put on hold due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Meanwhile the new management structure of the project was finalised. This included drawing feedback into a major review and re-visioning work, revising the engagement process and a restructure of the funding.
As of 1st June 2020 RSPB are the project host organisation, taking the public engagement of 2019/2020 into a new development stage for the project, with a grant of £150,000 (with the rest of the funding on hold until this process has been successfully completed). This phase will last between 1-2 years, depending on how long is needed to co-design a truly locally owned project, and taking into consideration the Covid-19 restrictions. The project team is reduced to a Project Development Officer, a role taken up by the Community Engagement Officer, Siân Stacey.
What does coronavirus mean for the project?
The project has had to halt all in-person engagement work in response to the Covid-19 crisis, of course. We’re still here and very happy to talk over the phone or on Zoom – drop Sian an email on email@example.com if you would like to plan in a phone call.
During this time we are planning further engagement, which will either be in person or online depending on restrictions. Sign up to the newsletter for updates on these in the coming months.
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