We were delighted recently to announce that our action to have a Judicial Review of the decision by Powys County Council to give planning approval for a big Intensive Poultry Unit at Llanshay, just outside Knighton, had resulted in PCC conceding that the decision was faulted. PCC conceded on only one point, which concerned manure management, about which more below. Articles in the national press spread the good news and from the messages SFK received it is clear that groups and individuals opposing the development of similar intensive units took heart from our success.
Of course, we knew that the battle was unlikely to be over so quickly and that has proved to be the case. PCC announced in this week's Mid Wales Journal 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.
The applicant has also responded to new regulations regarding ammonia emissions by proposing to install “scrubbers” to remove the ammonia from the exhaust air, another technical fix involving fans operating day and night.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com.
All at Sustainable Food Knighton
The following, published Feb 5th by Planning quarterly, provides a clear summary of the Judicial review story.
Council permission for intensive chicken farm quashed following crowdfunded legal challenge
5 February 2021 by Conor McGlone and Gavin McEwan
A consent order published by Cardiff Administrative Court on 2 March quashed the permission granted last September by Powys County Council for the erection of two poultry buildings and associated infrastructure at Llanshay Farm, Knighton.
Powys has been dubbed the “poultry capital of Wales” due to the number of IPUs operating in the county.
The case was brought by campaign group Sustainable Food Knighton (SFK), which argued that the council had not taken all environmental impacts arising from the development into account when granting permission, in particular those stemming from the need to spread manure on fields.
The consent order said the council "accepts that there was no evidential basis for the officer's conclusion that the impacts on amenity from the proposed development would be acceptable because the fields were unlikely to be spread with manure from the proposed development more than twice per annum".
A council spokesperson told Planning: "The council acknowledges receipt of the judicial review consent order and will enact upon the order which has quashed the planning decision granted in September 2020.
"It will be necessary for the planning matters identified in the consent order to be addressed and re-considered as part of the re-determination of the planning application."
An SFK spokesperson said: “Although the application can still be reopened, the particular point conceded will have to be addressed along with, potentially, other grounds for objection that the group highlighted."
These include the impact on landscape, water and soil health, biodiversity and human health, and also the cumulative impact of the hundreds of other IPUs now in Powys.
Last year, Welsh government agency Natural Resources Wales said it would conduct a “detailed review” after algal blooms turned the river Wye green and resulted in significant damage to its biodiversity.
The group's recent success opposing the spread of intensive poultry units in Mid Wales has been highlighted in a new article published by Sentient Media, a non-profit journalism organization that seeks to create transparency around the role of animals in our daily lives, from food to companionship to laboratory test subjects. To read the full article, follow the link: Factory Farming Is on the Rise, but Communities Are Fighting Back (sentientmedia.org)
At last! The news our supporters will have been waiting for! The following is the unedited text of a press release being sent out this week!
"Grassroots environmental group Sustainable Food Knighton’s battle against the spread across Powys of intensive poultry units (IPUs) received a massive boost last week, after Powys County Council conceded it had acted unlawfully in granting planning permission for an IPU.
SFK applied for a judicial review of the Council’s decision in early November and the Council conceded after a High Court Judge granted permission to proceed to a full judicial review hearing.
Powys County Council has 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.
We are still in the process of agreeing the final draft order with the Council so that this can be approved by the court, but essentially this means that the permission for the IPU development will be quashed and, although the application can still be re-opened, the particular point conceded will have to be addressed along with, potentially, other grounds for objection that the group highlighted. These included factors such as the local impact on landscape, water and soil health, biodiversity and human health and also the cumulative impact of the hundreds of IPUs now in Powys. Taken together, the group argued, the resulting loss of biodiversity, ground and water pollution, increased greenhouse gas emissions and impacts on human health from ammonia emissions present a real risk, not just to Powys and Wales, but globally.
We want to give our heartfelt thanks to all those who helped to get us here, 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 this 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.
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”.
23rd Jan 2021
What a great way to start 2021! Huge thanks to all those who went to our Crowd Justice page and pledged financial support for this action. We really could not have achieved this win without you.
See the link below for an interesting document produced by a research team at the University of Chester and various partner organisations outlining a framework to guide UK churches and other Christian organizations in formulating policy and practice in relation to farmed animal welfare. There are separate sections on chicken, fish, sheep, pigs and cattle and it provides a comprehensive summary of current farming practices and welfare categories.
Two conclusions reached are that
“Animal products are currently inexpensive for consumers to purchase, because they come from farming systems that prioritize cost above farmed animal flourishing. Progress towards higher farmed animal welfare will make animal products more expensive, but consuming higher welfare animal products need not lead to higher domestic and institutional catering budgets. Food costs can be lowered when reduced consumption of animal products is combined with increased consumption of plant-based alternatives, which generally cost less than animal products. These changes need to accompanied by a wider social commitment to ensure that everyone has the means to afford food that is healthy, environmentally sustainable, and produced to high animal welfare standards.”
“UK farmers need fair contracts. Much of the current trading of farmed animal products in the UK is unfair to farmers and their animals. Contracts do not sufficiently reward farmers, and they contain too few incentives to enable flourishing for farmed animals. Consumers, retailers, wholesalers, farmers, investors, and other stakeholders can all play roles in demanding and enabling fair trade in farmed animal products, to reward farmers for improving their animals’ opportunities to flourish.”
These are sentiments entirely in line with our campaign stance at Sustainable Food Knighton.
H5N8 bird flu has broken out in parts of England, including in Herefordshire. In response, the Welsh government has introduced an all-Wales ‘avian influenza prevention zone’ to prevent spread of the virus. Although the risk of it spreading to humans is low, it is still a possibility, as it is zoonotic – ie can jump from birds to humans. There are different strains, some more dangerous than others. The lethal 1918 flu originated in birds.
There was an outbreak of bird flu in 1997 in Hong Kong, and more recently, in 2017, there were some cases of H5N1 SARS bird flu that spread to humans in different parts of China. Fortunately the virus was contained and so did not develop into a pandemic. But the threat is always there. Bird flu is another coronavirus that affects the respiratory tract.
It is good that the government here have taken preventative action, but now, surely, is the time to review intensive poultry production. When so many birds are kept in such close quarters, it would only take an individual animal to affect thousands of others. The virus can be transmitted via dead as well as living birds.
Covid 19 is still not under control in the UK – how would we manage if another flu got into the human population?
READ MORE BY FOLLOWING THE LINKS BELOW.
BBC News Nov 12th report
Farmers Guide Nov 11th report
As you will be aware Sustainable Food Knighton formed initially to oppose a local application to build an intensive poultry unit, but we quickly realised that the entire situation across Powys is dire and needs to change.
Background – the problem with chicken poo
There are now, at any one time, nearly 10 million chickens housed in sheds across Powys, producing tons of excrement, both faeces and urine, mixed with used bedding, feathers and remains of feed. With nowhere else to put it, this manure is spread on nearby fields. It contains nitrogen and phosphorus, useful in small quantities as fertiliser, but toxic in high concentrations. Legislation ensuring safe levels of nitrates and phosphates on the land is still unclear and insufficient.
The manure from one or two farms might have a mild impact, but the proliferation of IPUs and other intensive agricultural practices has been a disaster. Over 40% of UK soil is over-fertilised and agriculture now produces more phosphates and nitrates than sewage treatment works. Rain and flood waters carry phosphorus from the fields into rivers and lakes, causing eutrophication – the rivers literally suffocate. The phosphorus stimulates algal growth, which in turn reduces the oxygen in the rivers, eventually killing fish and other riverine species. It can take years for rivers to recover.
More and more disturbing reports are coming out about river pollution. The river Wye, formerly one of the cleanest rivers in Wales, is now clogged with green algae; anglers report fewer fish; walkers and all lovers of nature mourn the loss of biodiversity as fewer birds sing, insect numbers plummet, and plant species decrease.
Nitrogen on the other hand is particularly damaging to wild flowers, lichen and fungi. It is the one pollutant in Wales whose levels are still rising; 89% of sensitive Welsh wildlife habitats are suffering from excess nitrogen levels. They are out-competed by plants such as nettles and hemlock that thrive on nitrogen.
Nitrogen combines with hydrogen to form ammonia NH3, which travels long distances through the air, mixes with rain, and can contribute to the formation of fine particulates, a cause of concern for human health, especially in the light of the Covid-19 epidemic.Nitrogen combined with oxygen forms nitrous oxide, or N2O, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than CO2, that also depletes the ozone layer.
IPUs contribute significantly to climate change; aside from the N2O emissions, hundreds of truck movements are needed for construction and maintenance of the farms, including transporting manure and dead animals, and chicken feed is based on soya, often imported from destroyed rain forest areas in the Amazon.
Here in Knighton there is already a 34,500 Free Range Broiler Unit, the Grove, less than 2 miles from the town centre, and another broiler unit and a free range egg unit nearby, either side of the border. Now Powys Council have given permission for a broiler unit of 110,000 chickens at Llanshay Farm on the edge of town, not far from the Grove and a proposed housing development which was also granted planning permission. Given what we now know about the pollutants from IPUs, this is a cause for grave concern.
The campaign so far and why we are taking legal action
For a year and a half SFK have opposed this application and IPU’s in general. We have lobbied different authorities, pointing out that IPUs fly in the face of Wales’s and Powys’s commitments to taking action on climate change and increasing biodiversity, while de-intensifying farming.
We have talked and written to town and county councillors, visited the Senedd to voice our concerns, asked the Welsh government to call in the application for scrutiny, run stalls and held a Covid-secure demonstration in town. We pointed out that IPU’s are not compatible with Welsh government environmental legislation including the Environment Wales Act 2016 and the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act 2019, as well as the declaration of a Climate Emergency in April 2019.
Our efforts were in vain; the Welsh government refused to call in the application and in September 2020 it was finally approved without a full meeting of Powys Planning Committee, as in January 2020 Powys Council ruled that even applications as large as this, requiring an Environmental Impact Assessment, could be decided under ‘delegated powers’.
All this means that SFK has felt there is no other option but to apply for a Judicial Review of the council’s decision, as we cannot 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.
SFK want to be clear that we are not out to persecute farmers trying to survive in difficult times. This is a case that will shine a spotlight on the inertia of local and government authorities who have allowed the proliferation to continue unchecked.
We want the council and our government to change course, take their responsibilities seriously, and fulfil their commitment to supporting farmers to produce food in ways that create meaningful employment and provide good local food at fair prices, without destroying the ecosystems on which we all depend.
Why we need funds
We have a brilliant team of lawyers who are giving much of their time for free, but we still need to raise some money for them, as well as enough to cover potential court costs if we lose. Our initial target is £5,000.
Hence our appeal – we need your help! If you want a world where everyone can eat well without destroying the planet in the process, where farmers and food producers are not driven to investing in costly and damaging intensive practices, but instead use methods that increase biodiversity and actively reduce globally warming emissions, please support us, contribute and share this page as widely as possible. In return you get our heartfelt thanks – with your help we can start to make a real difference!
FOLLOW THIS LINK TO GO STRAIGHT TO OUR CROWDJUSTICE PAGE.