First the good news
Sustainable Food Knighton’s battle against the spread across Powys of intensive poultry units (IPUs) received a massive boost in January, after Powys County Council conceded it had acted unlawfully in granting planning permission for an IPU at Llanshay Farm, Knighton.
SFK applied for a judicial review of the Council’s decision in early November 2020 and the Council conceded after a High Court Judge granted permission to proceed to a full judicial review hearing.
Powys County Council admitted that the application should not have been approved, because there was no evidence before the Planning Officer to support the conclusion that the impacts on amenity would be acceptable because the fields would be “unlikely to be spread more than twice per annum”. In other words, it could not be assumed that the spreading of manure in order to dispose of it would not impact adversely on the local population or on people using the local area for recreation.
The official Consent Order confirming this outcome was issued on March 1st, agreement was reached on costs and the permission for the IPU development was quashed. Articles in the national press spread the good news and from the messages SFK received it was clear that groups and individuals opposing the development of similar intensive units took heart from our success.
And now the less good news...
Of course, we knew that the battle was unlikely to be over so quickly and that has proved to be the case. PCC announced at the end of March that the application has been resubmitted with adjustments to the plan to address the particular points that led to the original planning approval being overturned. SFK is preparing its response but we urge all who oppose - whether morally or environmentally - the further expansion of Powys as the intensive poultry capital of the UK to send in representations to the address given. THIS IS URGENT AS THE DEADLINE FOR SUCH SUBMISSIONS IS APRIL 26TH!
SFK’s original objection was based on six areas, briefly summarised and updated as follows.
1. Climate change
The Welsh government declared a climate emergency in 2019 and Powys County Council declared that it would take steps to address it. SFK argued that the proposed intensive poultry unit was in clear conflict with the aims of reducing carbon emissions, ensuring a sustainable farming industry and making Wales net zero by 2050. The bird feed is typically soya-based, with huge environmental implications for regions like the Amazon as well as the impact of shipping huge distances. Heavy vehicle traffic is part of the running of IPUs, not just because of feed but also the movement of the birds in and out and the movement of the tons of manure generated.
2. Manure Management
It was initially proposed that the manure generated should be spread onto pasture, and it was on this objection that PCC conceded. The plan as resubmitted now proposes that manure be taken by road to a bio-digester 55 miles away over the border in Whitchurch. Needless to say, residents of Whitchurch have their own feelings about their role in the intensive farming industry – see https://www.whitchurchherald.co.uk/news/18476255.concerns-raised-whitchurch-biogas-plant-application/ for more.
3. Landscape Impact
It was argued that the impact of building an access road near a public bridleway had been ignored, and the full impact on the rural landscape – including the resulting smells, noise, damage to woodland and hedgerows, and contamination of springs and watercourses - had not been sufficiently evaluated.
4. Water supply
It was argued that during periods of heavy rain there is a risk of phosphates running off from the fields where the manure is spread, and contaminating the Teme and that no assessment had been given for this.
5. Amenity/highway safety impacts on new residents
As the applicant had already received planning permission from PCC for the erection of 103 dwellings on land about 500 metres from the proposed IPU, we argued that the impact of construction and maintenance of the IPU on the proposed residents of these dwellings needed consideration.
6. Cumulative Effects and risks to human health
With a higher concentration of IPUs in Powys than anywhere else in Europe, studies of the cumulative impact on environment and human health are needed. SFK has real concerns about the risks of ammonia and other emissions to human and environmental health, in addition to which scientists have become increasingly aware in the last year of the potential dangers to human health posed by the zoonotic transmission of viruses from animals to humans in intensive farming contexts.
SFK will be revisiting these objections in the days ahead as we consider our next move. We believe that the two technological fixes proposed by the applicant do nothing to address the real problem of the cumulative effects of IPUs, the resulting contributions to climate change and loss of biodiversity, and the increasing industrialisation of farming and its impact on local landscapes and communities.
As many of you are aware the original planning application was decided under delegated powers by the Planning Officer. A request by our local County Councillor to call in the substantially amended re-application has been refused on the grounds that it should have been “called in” 21 days after the original application for it to be assessed by the full planning committee, unless substantially different information is brought to bear. We dispute this but as a result of the refusal the resubmission can only be put before full Planning Committee if the Head of Planning makes that decision. SFK takes the view that objections to the planning application would be far more likely to receive proper consideration in a democratic and transparent manner if put before the full planning committee.
Another Judicial Review may be necessary if the re-submitted application is passed. However, we intend to do all we can to get it refused outright and our lawyers are committed to helping us achieve this outcome. But if we are to stand any chance of finally stopping this planned intensive poultry unit WE NEED AS MANY OBJECTIONS AS POSSIBLE TO BE LODGED BY THE APRIL 26TH DEADLINE.
The application and associated documents can be viewed by going to http://pa.powys.gov.uk/online-applications/?lang=EN and looking for application number 19/0743/FUL. Submissions and objections should be emailed to email@example.com or posted to Planning Services, County Hall, Spa Road east, Llandrindod Wells, LD1 5LG.
If you require any more information from SFK, please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A few words of thanks
We want at this point to give our heartfelt thanks to all those who helped to get us this far, particularly the Environmental Law Foundation and our brilliant legal team - Philippa Jackson and Ruth Keating at 39 Essex Chambers, and Matthew McFeeley at Richard Buxton solicitors. Thanks also to our planning advisor, Helen Hamilton, of Marches Planning, who has been involved in this campaign from the very beginning, and to the Brecon and Radnor Branch of The Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales (CPRW) and all other organisations and individuals who worked so hard on investigations into the environmental impacts for the original planning application. Finally, a big thanks to all those many supporters who encouraged us and backed us financially both locally and nationally, through a crowd funding appeal as well as individual donations.
Camilla sums up
Sustainable Food Knighton spokesperson Camilla Saunders noted that farmers all over Wales and the UK are struggling to survive and some have given up, as weather becomes more uncertain, disease is rife among animals, and supermarkets insist on ‘cheap food’ for consumers. Of course, it is not cheap, when you look at the environmental costs, and how many farmers are going bankrupt, unable to meet the supermarkets’ conditions. Meanwhile huge corporations such as Cargill rake in profits from intensive chicken and pig rearing as they sell the infrastructure and feed to individual farmers and make sure to do well out of it.
Ms Saunders states, “The contributions of intensive farming to ecosystem damage, biodiversity loss and climate change have been well documented. This year, pandemics permitting, the COP15 on Biodiversity will take place in China in May and COP 26, the UN climate change conference will take place in Glasgow in November. Intensive agriculture will be high on the agenda as it is now a leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and plummeting biodiversity all over the world.
Powys and the Welsh government could take a lead in this, and not wait to be forced into doing the right thing by international law. Minister for the Environment, Leslie Griffiths, has agreed that farming must de-intensify, but so far nothing concrete has happened.
Refusing any further planning applications for IPUs and developing coherent agricultural policies that support farmers and their local communities would be a good start”.