In the past, quarrying, mining, heavy industry, farming, textiles, and fishing have all played an important role in the economic life of Meirionnydd, and then they have faded. Now the one enduring industry that we can count on not only to survive, but if properly managed to provide growth in the years to come, is tourism.
Tourism has long since overtaken farming in the size of its contribution it makes to the Welsh economy. Even if Brexit marks the end of the long-standing EU vendetta against hill farmers, and future UK governments give this sector of agriculture the support it so desperately needs and deserves, recovery will take decades.
Arguably, the only exploitable major natural resource that rural Wales still posses is its landscape, and this is a resource that will become ever more valuable and marketable as other areas in the UK continue to be industrialised and urbanised. An increasingly affluent and mobile population will continue to seek out places where they can still experience rural life and tranquillity during their leisure time.
It is very strange therefor, that the Welsh Government seems to be jeopardising this vital resource by means of new measures outlined in a document called the Future Landscapes Wales report. If implemented, these would lead to the national parks, which have safeguarded the most precious and irreplaceable areas of rural Wales since the end of the war, being replaced by bodies that will not have a remit to properly protect and manage their natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage, but will be focused on development.
Of course development is essential even in the national park areas, but surly it must be compatible with preserving the landscape. Otherwise the assets that make rural Wales unique, and attract millions of visitors from all over the world each year, will be impaired. Instead of growth in tourism’s contribution to the economy we will see stagnation or worse.
More information about what is happening, and how you can help, can be found here:
Two final points. Apparently, the Future Landscapes Wales measures are the brainchild of none other than Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas, who also claims credit for being the man behind the present Llanbedr Bypass scheme, although he refuses to admit that it is a bypass. Behind the scenes briefings suggest the his motivation hinges on the national parks not being Welsh enough, but it is hard to see how even he can really think that Welshness and preserving the landscape are incompatible.
Secondly, some years ago the Snowdonia Society deservedly got a very bad reputation in this area when it conducted a quite unscrupulous campaign to prevent Llanbedr Airfield reopening. At that time, it was being run by a discredited labour politician and a retired civil servant who had a holiday cottage in Llanbedr. It is now under new, and very different, management and has returned to its original, and immensely useful, role as envisaged by its redoubtable founder, Esme Kirby. That is to act as a watchdog safeguarding the life, culture and landscape of the national park.
If you care about Llanbedr, and other rural communities in the Snowdonia National Park, do please spare a moment or two to make your views known to your elected representatives in the Senedd before 6th June 2017.