how we got here
The Town Council of Knighton (KTC) in Mid Wales declared a climate emergency.
A small group of us, hearing that the same council had approved a local farmer’s planning application to build an IPU (Intensive Poultry Unit) at Llanshay Farm, were appalled as this did not fit with declaring a climate emergency - for example, the feed is based on soya produced on ex-rainforest land in the Amazon.
When the planning application was modified and discussed again at KTC, a group of us attended to state our concerns but the council voted again in favour of the application.
In response we formed Sustainable Food Knighton, with a double objective: firstly to campaign against the local IPU proposal, highlighting the toxic cumulative effects, but more generally to find out how our local community could work with farmers, consumers and local councils to ensure more sustainable, affordable and environmentally friendly food production.
We organised a stall at Knighton Community Market on several occasions throughout the year, to highlight our concerns and ask local people to write letters of objection to Powys County Council (PCC).
We made contact with a representative of CPRW (Council for the Protection of Rural Wales), who was extremely knowledgeable and had been working on the issue for years. On her advice we approached a specialist planning advisor whom we paid to write an excellent objection to Powys Council Planning. SFK members also met our Lib Dem MP (at the time) Jane Dodds along with with Kirsty Williams (our local MS) to discuss our concerns.
SFK held a well-attended public meeting at Knighton Community Centre to discuss local food production.
A group of us visited the Senedd to demonstrate about the proliferation of IPUs in Wales.. We met a cross party selection of Senedd members: Joyce Watson, who continues to raise the issues with the Welsh Government, Neil Hamilton who is supportive of our efforts, Kirsty Williams who is our local representative, and assistants from the other parties. Leslie Griffiths (Environment Minister) and Julie James (Planning) were unavailable.
Since then we have exchanged endless emails, and talked on the phone with Council members, the Welsh Government, and NRW (Natural Resources Wales) who are involved in planning decisions. We have always been told that they are conforming to planning laws and paying attention to environmental concerns.
On the advice of Planning Aid Wales, we asked the Welsh Government to call in the application – this was subsequently refused.
We were just in the process of organising a local "Veg Pledge" event to encourage people to reduce meat consumption, with financial support from Lightfoot Enterprises, when Covid -19 shut everything down.
SFK raised a question at Hay Festival online, to a panel discussing the Welsh Government's Well Being of Future Generations Act, highlighting the proliferation of IPUs in Wales - this was answered by Mark Drakeford, First Minister of Wales.
Last year we met online with CPRW and eight other groups all opposing local applications for IPUs in Powys, as well as international groups engaged in the wider struggle against intensive farming. The Guardian and local press have also taken up the issue.
In addition, throughout the year 2020 we emailed all PCC councillors outlining our concerns, had face-to-face meetings with PCC councillors, including Rosemarie Harris (Cabinet Lead) and Jackie Charlton (Lib Dem Cllr). We also met Hywel Butts, Welsh Government Planning Dept, and a representative from Agriculture Policy WG to discuss concerns around PCC planning procedures and decisions. In September 2020 SFK had a virtual conference call with Cllr James Evans (Planning Porfolio holder PCC) and Tamsin Law (Planning Officer PCC) to discuss planning issues, especially concerns about the use of delegated powers to determine planning decisions which we felt was an affront to democracy and lacked transparency.
September 25th 2020
The decision to approve the Llanshay IPU planning application was posted on the online PCC Planning Portal. Powys Council gave this approval under delegated powers, ie with no opportunity for residents to speak at a public meeting with the full planning committee. This despite some very serious and detailed objections and concerns about transparency of decision-making.
SFK felt there was no other option but to apply for a Judicial Review of the council’s decision, as we could not allow it to go unchallenged. A judicial review is a court proceeding in which an independent judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action taken by a public body; it is an important tool in a democracy that ensures accountability from authorities such as local councils.
We received the brilliant news that PCC had admitted that its approval of the planning application had been faulted and that the planning permission was therefore quashed.
March 1st 2021
Official consent order received confirming the group's win against PCC and agreeing costs - see the "Local Anti-IPU Campaign" page for full details.
April 1st 2021
Planning application for Llanshay IPU is resubmitted with new proposals that the huge quantities of manure generated be taken by road to a bio-digester 55 miles away over the border in Whitchurch and that ammonia "scrubbers" be installed to clean emissions from the buildings. SFK sends out appeal to all those who oppose the explosion of IPU development across our landscape, whether for environmental, health or moral reasons, to register their objections.
The pandemic has made it clear that we cannot rely on these long, global, corporate food supply chains, and that the risk of infections being passed on to humans from intensively farming operations is real. Many of the current outbreaks of Covid-19 are at meat-processing plants and abattoirs.
Many people - including some farmers - believe that IPUs are the wrong response to our food crisis. It is a fact that supermarkets have a strangle hold on producers, and force prices down. Smaller concerns often struggle to make enough profit to keep afloat, and may go into intensive production out of desperation.
Despite this, increasing numbers of people in the UK suffer food poverty. They are forced to buy low grade food with little nutritional value. Food produced with care for the environment, the welfare of animals, and decent wages for workers is sadly still not widely available at a price affordable to those on a low income. We need local, national and global strategies to produce good food for everybody.
Let’s support local farmers and food producers to work towards sustainable food production now and in the future. As part of this, Sustainable Food Knighton, together with eight other local groups in Powys, is asking PCC to petition the Welsh Government and NRW to impose a moratorium on future planning applications for IPUs.