A GWENT council has called for the Welsh Government to pause its consultation on controversial farm payment reforms – but most members abstained on the vote. 

The Sustainable Farming Scheme being put forward by the Welsh Government led to a protest at the Senedd this week, attended by some 2,000 farmers and supporters, angered by proposals that include 10 per cent of land on farms being used for tree planting. 

Monmouthshire County Council agreed a motion put forward by Conservative councillor Lisa Dymock but, though a number of Labour councillors said they shared the concerns, they all said they would abstain due to its call to “pause the current consultation” which is due to close next week. 

The council’s Labour leader Mary Ann Brocklesby said: “While I support the core and the spirit of the motion I will abstain as this is not the moment to pause a consultation that has been seven years in the making.” 

Monmouth councillor Catherine Fookes, who is Labour’s Monmouthshire candidate for the General Election expected this year, said she shared farmers’ concerns at the requirement for 10 per cent tree cover and a further 10 per cent of land as nature habitat.

But Cllr Fookes said she would also abstain as she didn’t believe the consultation should be paused as she said farming unions and others had already responded and taken part in events. 

Cllr Dymock said: “The proposals do not work for our farmers but the Welsh Government is just not ready to admit it yet.” 

The Portskewett councillor said her motion was “to pause not disregard” the consultation and said she found it “concerning” councillors said they had supported it but “are still unwilling to stand by” farmers. 

Labour councillor for Rogiet, Peter Strong, criticised Monmouth MP David Davies, who he said had presented the 10 per cent tree cover proposal as meaning that percentage of land would be lost. He said: “That’s not true unless there are no trees (on a farm) at present”. 

He said “some of the language” in the motion was “less then helpful” and said: “It would be better to use the language of diplomacy rather than protest. We have seen farmers are more than capable of organising their own protests.” 

A number of councillors criticised the plans as a “one size fits all approach” and Conservative Jayne McKenna, who attended the protest, said: “Just as with the 20 mile per hour speed limit across Wales the Welsh Government is trying to cast a blanket across farming, yet every farm is different. 

“In short one size does not fit all.”

Catrin Maby, the cabinet member for the environment, said she couldn’t see a pause would help but said the council’s response to the consultation would “urge the Welsh Government to listen and make necessary changes”. She added the council is also responding through a forum for rural authorities. 

Green Party councillor Ian Chandler, who sits in the Labour-led cabinet, said: “We all need to accept there must be change, we can’t go on as we have. Wales is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world.” 

Deputy leader Paul Griffiths said while he agreed “with so much of what’s been said” he would abstain as “I could not bring myself to oppose this motion” but said he disagreed with a pause.

Conservative councillor for Abergavenny Maureen Powell said she thought she, and one Labour councillor, are probably the only two members to have lived through World War Two and feared for food security: “You don’t know what could happen if we have a war in Europe we should need all the food we can produce.” 

The motion was carried with 21 Conservatives and independents voting in favour but the entire Labour group and two independents abstained in the recorded vote requested by the Conservative leader Cllr Richard John.