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 was supportive of our efforts, Kirsty Williams, our local representative at that time, 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 Lllanshay IPU application came before the full planning committee. Two members of SFK made strong presentations but a councillor from Knighton Town Council made a presentation in support of the proposed IPU. The committee approved the plan by 15 votes to one. The result was obviously very disappointing for SFK but the campaign against unsustainable intensive poultry farming will carry on with the group focusing its efforts on changing Welsh government policy.
In November 2022 members of SFK attended the 3-day Wales Real Food and Farming Conference in Lampeter where, as well as making valuable contacts with like-minded groups and individuals, SFK ran a workshop on engaging with the Welsh Government to call for a nationwide moratorium on further IPU development. The group had decided that we now need to focus on engaging with members of the Senedd and Welsh government, as trying to fight local IPUs, case by case, is costly, exhausting, and potentially divisive in a small community.
A plan was formulated to visit the Senedd on February 15th 2023 to engage directly with MSs (Members of Senedd), and also to invite other groups and individuals who share our goals to join us to create a colourful outdoor presence, raising awareness of the need to hold the government to account on its promises to de-intensify farming and support farmers and food producers to adopt regenerative practices while producing healthy, affordable food.
The action and the meetings with MSs focussed on a few key demands, which are outlined below.
1. Moratorium on IPU development
Planning law regarding agriculture does not make it possible for local councils to take climate change, animal welfare and cumulative impact on the environment seriously when considering applications for Intensive Poultry Units (IPUs). We think planning rules need to be altered, in order to include such factors when making decisions. We therefore feel the urgent need for the government to impose a moratorium on all new IPUs, in order to ascertain the wider impact on our rivers, soil, biodiversity and climate change.
2. Ban on import of soya feed
Currently, intensively-reared chickens are fed on imported soya. Soya grown for export is decimating biodiversity and local communities in South America. This does not fit with Wales’s commitment to global responsibility as outlined in the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act and therefore we call on Welsh Government to ban the import of soya for animal feed.
3. More effective monitoring of phosphate and nitrate pollution
Natural Resources Wales should have the resources to effectively carry out its role of monitoring compliance with existing regulations regarding nitrates and phosphates. Campaigns about the River Wye, and water pollution in general, have highlighted the urgent need to enforce strict controls to ensure that our rivers are clean and full of life. Surely the funding can be found to enable this?
The event brought together activists and groups from across Wales and members of SFK were able to meet with and hold to account MSs from right across the political spectrum. The event raised the profile of the call for an IPU moratorium and SFK intends to build on this new momentum and the links forged with other groups to maintain the pressure on the Welsh Government.
We would be pleased to hear from any groups and individuals who share our aims and concerns and are opposed to industrial farming as we feel that the more diverse the coalition for a moratorium the more effective it will be in challenging the government to take real action rather than just making bland statements.