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PROJECTS designed to improve access to the countryside are to receive a £7.2m funding boost, the Welsh Government has announced.

£4.7m will be shared between National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) to be invested in green infrastructure such as electric vehicles, retrofitting existing buildings with energy efficiency measures, and restoring peatland and woodlands.

But in response to concerns that some communities have been subjected to “over tourism” during the lockdown, this funding also includes projects to mitigate the negative environmental effects of tourism such as erosion, littering and pollution.

Covering 20% of Wales’ surface area, the nation’s national parks include Snowdonia, the Brecon Beacons and the Pembrokeshire Coast, while AONBs are located on the coast of Anglesey, the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley, Gower, Llŷn and the Wye Valley.

Announcing the funding this morning while on a visit to Moel Famau, Hannah Blythyn, the Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government, spoke of their importance in helping tackle the loss of biodiversity and climate change.

“While our Designated Landscapes are very special to the people of Wales and attract millions of visitors each year, access to local green spaces proved just as important during lockdown and this funding demonstrates that we greatly value our local footpaths and other rights of way,” she said.

“Following easing of the lockdown, many of our most popular countryside sites have faced significant pressures from large numbers of visitors.

“While most have visited responsibly, there have been high-profile cases of illegal parking, littering and unregulated camping which have caused damage to our fragile landscapes.

“This funding has therefore included projects that mitigate the negative environmental effects of tourism such as erosion, littering and pollution.

“As lockdown has eased, the need to invest in a safe, high quality visitor experience for an increasing number of visitors has been highlighted. This, along with the need to make a contribution to tackling climate change, is a major challenge for our Designated Landscapes.

“This funding will support our National Parks and other bodies to address these challenges and to ensure everyone can continue to enjoy our countryside for years to come.”

The Pembrokeshire Coast NPA will lead on a £100,000 project to foster a closer working relationship across all national parks and AONBs, develop more joined-up approaches to the challenges and opportunities they have in common.

Meanwhile, a further £1.76m has been awarded to Local Authorities to improve Wales’s network of footpaths and bridleways, making them easier to use and more accessible to all.

In response to people rediscovering local footpaths and trails as part of their daily exercise during the recent Covid lockdown, £337,000 has also been awarded to eleven projects to improve recreational access to water and £309,000 to community orchards and allotments to support community growing projects.

The Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB which itself benefit from £180,000 to ease traffic congestion, carry out remedial work to address erosion to paths and surrounding land and reduce light pollution.

An additional £54,000 is also allocated to Denbighshire County Council for important upgrades to its network of footpaths and bridleways.

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