A Carmarthenshire conservation project has been given a commendation for its success in balancing economic development and biodiversity.

The Caeau Mynydd Mawr Project has been highly commended in the Wales Planning Award 2017 was announced at the Royal Town Planning Institute Cymru Annual Dinner in Cardiff.

The project was submitted by Carmarthenshire County Council Planning Services, Rural Conservation Section.

This ground-breaking project began in September 2013 and is successfully mitigating the impacts of development in the Cross Hands area on the protected Marsh fritillary butterfly and the habitat which supports it. Funded by contributions from developers, the project is essential to the delivery of Carmarthenshire County Council’s Local Development Plan, securing sufficient habitat to support the butterfly in the area.

There are currently 23 sites in management, a total area of over 125hectares, of which 42ha is owned by the project. The remaining area is in management agreements with other organisations and private landowners.

The project provides funding for work which improves the habitat for the butterfly such as fencing and provision of water for stock to reintroduce grazing to neglected sites, mowing rank areas of grassland and reduction of scrub encroachment. Devil’s bit scabious (the only larval food plant of the Marsh fritillary) has also been planted in several sites.

Although the focus is on improving habitat for the marsh fritillary butterfly, the project has much wider benefits, supporting a range of other species and providing a network of natural spaces amongst areas of development.

The Award said that the scheme, the Caeau Mynydd Mawr Special Area of Conservation-Supplementary Planning Guidance and Marsh Fritillary Project, had produced a creative solution to the conflict between development and conservation which was having an impact on the progress of the Local Development Plan.

The Award Panel said: the situation, for which there was no national guidance, had arisen from the need to address fundamental and conflicting demands.

These were successful economic development to support a strategic economic growth area, and the protection and enhancement of the area’s biodiversity including designated habitats and EU protected species.

The panel said it considered the project to be a good example and the method could be used elsewhere when similar conflicts arise.

Carmarthenshire County Council executive board member for public protection Cllr Philip Hughes, whose portfolio covers diversity, said: “The Caeau Mynydd Mawr Project shows that it is possible to combine economic development in an area while maintaining and even improving its biodiversity.”

Council deputy Leader Cllr Mair Stephens, whose portfolio covers strategic planning, said: “I’m delighted that the good work done by the Caeau Mynydd Mawr Project has been recognised in this way and that it is seen as an example to follow.”

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