POWYS RIVERS: CPRW Brecon & Radnor has been campaigning for a number of years for proper assessment of the environmental impacts of poultry farms. In October 2016 we held our first public Annual Seminar Day ‘Ponds, Rivers & Poultry’ chaired by Professor Steve Ormerod, to look at impacts of intensive poultry farming on water. Our new page looks at the development of the industry in the county since, the roles of Powys County Council, Natural Resources Wales and Welsh Government, and our campaign.
Trade talks are taking place with the US and it is reported that the UK may agree to the imports of US produced foods which do not meet UK food standards . While UK environmental and food standards have room for improvement, we fully support this important NFU petition to the UK government to create law to prevent the import of foods which would be illegal to produce here: https://www.campaigns.nfuonline.com/page/56262/petition/1?locale=en-GB
INTENSIVE FARMING IN WALES IN A POST COVID 19 WORLD
At the time of writing, in early April 2020, viral pandemic is sweeping the world with devastating impact. The strengths and weaknesses of our societies and political institutions are being laid bare, and we hope it’s not naïve to hope that alongside the work of recovery, when this is all over, there will be a long overdue reappraisal of political priorities. This article looks at just one hugely important mid Wales issue, central to CPRW’s remit.
CPRW Brecon & Radnor has long opposed Welsh Government’s uncritical support for intensive livestock farming, and the lack of effective environmental regulation. Our campaign has, till now, focussed on the environmental costs: ammonia and phosphate pollution, habitat degradation, harms to ancient woodlands, amenity and landscape, damage to soils, increasing volumes of traffic and health risks to close neighbours. By contrast government’s focus has rested solely on economic benefit to the farmer, though without taking into account economic fallout for other local businesses, such as tourism enterprises. Nor the demotion of independent Welsh farmers to contractors for profit-driven multinational corporations. The branch has been active in mapping the extent of the intensive poultry industry in Powys, and in discussing concerns with the local authority and Natural Resources Wales (1). The branch is also involved in the WG working group looking at planning guidance for new developments, and has, through the WG Petitions Committee, put concerns to Welsh ministers, though without having yet received any adequate response. Health risks associated with intensive livestock farming haven’t to date been a major focus of the campaign.
But there is scientific consensus that the health risks of intensive livestock farming are serious, and Covid 19 is a sharp and tragic reminder of the dangers of prioritising short term economic benefits at the expense of human, animal and environmental health. Though we don’t know yet exactly how the Covid 19 virus passed to humans, it seems almost certain that the virus originated in wild bat populations. It is not the first animal virus to have jumped to humans, just the first, in the last hundred years at least, to have such global reach. Since the intensive model of livestock farming emerged from the US in the post war decades, the frequency of such outbreaks has increased (2). While there has not been another bird flu pandemic since 1918, in recent decades there have been frequent bird flu outbreaks and the more dangerous strains are considered a potential pandemic threat.
We are not off the hook because we don’t, in Wales, have an equivalent of the ‘wet markets’ of the Far East. Intensive poultry units are near perfect incubators for viruses, providing regularly replenished populations of weakened, immune compromised, and genetically similar hosts. A concentration of intensive livestock units within a geographical area heightens the risks (3). Powys is now home to approaching 10 million poultry, housed on several hundred farms across the county, the majority of them below the threshold for environmental permit (4). Intensive pig farms, many of them under the planning radar, have also now arrived in Powys, sometimes on sites adjacent to intensive poultry units. Pigs, being susceptible to both bird and human flu viruses, can provide the perfect intermediary host for a bird flu virus to become an effective human pathogen.
The expansion of the intensive livestock model across the globe and associated pollution has caused widespread environmental degradation. And mouths need feeding: huge swathes of natural habitat have been destroyed to create farmland for the growing of feedcrops (5). This degradation and loss of habitat forces wild animal and bird populations into ever closer contact with humans, creating further opportunities for infection. Research also suggests that reduced biodiversity and ecosystem damage has the potential to increase disease transmission and emergence of new pathogens (6).
The last few days alone have seen outbreaks of swine fever, with the potential to transmit to humans, in western Poland (7) and in Gansu and Shanxii provinces in northern China (8), and highly pathogenic bird flu in a turkey flock in South Carolina (9).
At the same time intensive livestock farming poses the risk of increasing immunity to known antibiotics, essential to modern medicine. Routine use of low doses of antibiotics to compensate for husbandry and genetic deficiencies are one of the causes of an increase in resistant bacteria, and, alarmingly, exposure to one particular antibiotic can enable bacteria to establish immunity not only to that drug but to a raft of others as well.
This article doesn’t touch on issues of food security, resilience of supply and just reward for farmers, which recent weeks have shown also need urgent attention. But on grounds of the health risks alone, it is time surely for a radical rethink about the kind of farming Welsh Government wants to support, and the urgent prioritisation of the protection of our environment and biodiversity.
Notes: (1) www.brecon-and-radnor-cprw.wales (2) Among them Ebola (1976), HIV (1981), SARS (2003), MERS (2012), Nipah (2018), multiple outbreaks of various strains of bird flu, swine fever and now Covid 19. Years are years of first identification or first case of human infection. (3) See ‘The Role of Intensive Poultry Industry in the Spread of Avian Influenza’ CIWF 2007 (4) Welsh Government official statistics give the number of poultry in the Whole of Wales, in June 2018, as 10 million, suggesting that government has no idea of the scale of the industry across the country. (5) The calorific value of feedcrops is several multiples that of the meat or eggs produced. Intensive livestock farming cannot make a positive contribution to feeding the world’s growing population. (6) ‘Impacts of biodiversity on the emergence and transmission of infectious diseases’ Keesing, Belden et al. (Nature 468). (7) Guardian 8th April 2020 https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/apr/08/african-swine-fever-outbreak-reported-in-western-poland?fbclid=IwAR3nGgrq6rZTONGN82pR97sSLwGHAJ-ngQVIk-0qcpXR5EZPc-PTb_s_WJM (8) Reuters 13th April 2020 https://www.reuters.com/article/china-swinefever/china-reports-african-swine-fever-cases-in-gansu-shaanxi-provinces-idUSL3N2C10R0 (9) PBS News Hour 10th April 2020 https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/industry-scrambles-to-stop-fatal-bird-flu-in-south-carolina
Take a (virtual) walk in the Welsh woods, in the company of the experts who spoke at our recent Trees and Woodlands of Wales day in November 2019.
We’re introducing a new Videos area, in the Gallery section of the website. Our launch is now live, with an audio slideshow of Dr. George Peterken’s talk introducing the Woodlands of Wales. And we’ll be rolling out the rest of the talks on an approximately fortnightly basis, so keep checking the website and our Facebook page for the rest of the series – and be sure to share the videos with anyone who loves woodlands!
Hendy Wind Farm: We were so busy dealing with the catastrophic implications of the Draft NDF (see below) that it overshadowed the rejection of our Appeal against the Hendy decision in London at the end of November. While this is a bitter blow for us and for all of you who have so generously donated towards our David and Goliath attempt to stop this folly, a show of determination and the knowledge and experience gained is never wasted. Thank you again for your support.
On the ground, the fight with these opportunistic Hendy developers is continuing as they try to discharge planning conditions and construct the remaining turbines. The single second-hand turbine (T5), installed in January 2019 to beat the ROCs subsidy deadline, remains static. T5 was built using an unlawful access off the A44 and without discharging any of the pre-construction conditions.
Various conditions still remain to be discharged and no Commons Land consent has been approved. Powys has refused the application to alter planning Condition 7 which says a turbine that does not turn for 6 months must come down but, disappointingly, they have not enforced removal of the turbine and will not explain this. Nor will Ofgem explain how a last-minute application for a subsidy can be approved when there is no windfarm, no grid connection and no electricity a whole year later! Meanwhile, the Developer has submitted an application for retrospective permission for the new access (19/1709/FUL) which will eventually come before the Planning Committee.
Could Powys County Council Planning Department be starting to realise that in allowing Hendy Wind Farm to ride roughshod over all planning preconditions and commons rights, they are bringing Welsh Planning and the entire wind industry into disrepute?
Meanwhile, the Bryn Blaen development completed two years ago has yet to make any significant contribution to the National Grid.
Welsh Government Consultation on draft National Development Framework: Together with Landscape Consultant Geoffrey Sinclair (from CPRW Pembrokeshire Branch), your Branch prepared CPRW’s National response to the NDF, which was submitted just before Christmas. Our argument is that we are NOT opposed to all wind-farms but that these should be sited appropriately and that offshore wind (a technology where the UK is a world leader) should clearly be a big part of the mix.
Instead of providing a transparent assessment of future energy needs, and options for meeting them, the NDF assumed that all Wales’ projected renewable energy ambitions would be met onshore. This would be achieved by designating one fifth of Welsh land outside national parks as priority areas, with a presumption of approval for wind farms of turbines up to 250m high and expansive solar arrays all with visual impact throughout Wales. The NDF proposals have been slammed for their poor methodology and implications for landscape, biodiversity, tourism and rural communities.
Natural Resources Wales Area Statements: Perplexingly, at the same time as the NDF was being rolled out, the NRW Area Statements are being prepared with a succession of incoherent discussion meetings where ‘ideas are being sought’ from bemused and apprehensive environmental stakeholders and residents. These statements are supposed to be enshrined as the guiding tenets for future planning decisions, but they are so behind-hand that they will be published this Spring as hotch-potch lists of aspirations with no accompanying spatial planning. They will be subject to the NDF and intimately linked with the new farm payments system and agricultural pollution measures, none of which have been announced. Let’s hope somebody in the Welsh Government knows what is going on.
Readers will recall that NRW (Natural Resources Wales) is the only statutory body responsible for the protection of our natural environment and sustainable management of our natural resources. NRW was drastically re-organised in 2019. We were much encouraged that NRW’s Chief Executive Claire Pillman spoke out in September against the M4 Newport extension, against which CPRW Gwent has campaigned so successfully, so there may be hope yet.
Intensive Poultry Units: Elsewhere, we are continuing our monitoring and mapping of intensive poultry units in Powys and following-up our petition to the Welsh Assembly to regulate these. We have obtained a place on the national planning Intensive Agriculture Working Group and are engaging with NRW, Powys Planning and the cross-border Wye River Nutrient Management body to protect our precious river systems.
Our petition to ensure that planning objections are made available online by Powys County Council (as they are by all neighbouring councils) attracted an impressive 500 local signatures. We will continue to fight for democracy in Powys Planning. The reluctant Council continues to cite cost and ‘data protection concerns’ as it plans to shrink the Planning Department in 2020.
Other Branch news & nominations sought for Branch awards: Alongside these struggles, we hope to bring some enjoyment and reflection on our countryside through our yearly Seminar Days and countryside prizes. We were delighted to see such a wide audience of members at the Trees and Woodlands day we held with the Welsh Woodlands Trust in November.
We ask you to help us with nominees for our Brecon & Radnor Rural Wales and Louis Hurley Awards this year. The Rural Wales award recognises people and organisations who go above and beyond to protect the environment or promote our rich heritage. The Louis Hurley Award is given for particularly good and recent examples of new builds or restorations which enhance the existing local landscape/townscape, and in the case of a restoration/extension, work well with the existing original building.
In the coming year, our branch is eager to seize any opportunities to mitigate the impacts of Brexit, Climate Change and disastrous Biodiversity decline on our Welsh countryside and communities. We cannot do this without your knowledge and encouragement.
We are also hoping to obtain better central resources at CPRW this year. Nationally we only have one employee in Carys at head office: the rest of the work is undertaken by our dedicated volunteers, and is only made possible with your support.
Jonathan Colchester Chair, Brecon & Radnor Branch, Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales Registered charity number 239899
Petition to ask Powys County Council to Publish Third-party Comments on Planning Applications on their Website
In December 2018, Powys County Council stopped publishing comments from “third-parties” on their planning website, with a review due in December 2019.
“Third-parties” are local people and other Powys residents and environmental or other stakeholder organisations. They often have important evidence for or against planning applications which should be taken into account. Third-party comments show us the extent and reasons for public concern.
Their comments should be available on the internet for EVERYONE, including Planning Committee Members, to see. Other councils manage to show third-party comments.
Why can’t Powys County Council?
The poor alternatives of having to drive or take public transport to view files in Llandrindod Wells, or asking for third-party comments by email, penalise the public and are simply not working.
Welsh Government’s draft National Development Framework is out for public consultation: closing date 15th November.
It has been immensely time-consuming and difficult to first track down and then trawl through the myriad of documents in various locations on the Welsh Government website. Please see new website page, ‘Responding to the Welsh Government NDF consultation: Some Key Points’, summarising what we believe to be key problems with the draft NDF proposals, and intended to provide a useful and time-saving resource to aid response to this important consultation. More detailed considerations are available as a pdf download on the same page. This new page supplements existing pages which contain a summary of the role of the NDF and general concerns with the proposals, and detailed maps of renewable energy ‘Priority Areas’.
Action Alert: September 2019 – Save our Welsh Countryside!
The Welsh Government’s draft National Development Framework (NDF) contains expanded renewable energy plans to industrialise vast new areas of our countryside
The draft NDF is going through a consultation process. PLEASE MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD BY NOVEMBER 15th: This will be your only opportunity.
[Some guidelines which may help you on making your response can be found here.]
The proposals set new Priority Areas sweeping across large parts of Wales – to be allocated for further wind farms and solar arrays as shown on the map below. Within them, landscape change will be accepted and there will be a presumption of planning approval. All projects over 10 megawatts will be decided by the Welsh Government, and other rural assets – including biodiversity – will be compromised.
CPRW accepts the need for renewable energy in the right place and supports economic development in rural areas, but this does not justify widespread industrialisation and irrational destruction of our landscapes. Visitor surveys show that people come to enjoy the tranquillity and beauty of our unspoilt landscapes. Tourism is growing rapidly and helps sustain rural economies and farm livelihoods.
Please look at how the plans affect your area and make your views known by responding to the consultation, and do please write to the Press, your Councillors, your AM and your MP. Thank you.
This month’s newsletter has a report from the AGM, updates on Hendy Windfarm and the Welsh Government’s National Development Framework, and a Date For Your Diaries. There is also an opportunity for you to have your say about the Welsh Planning System.
Our AGM was held on 27th July at the Tabernacle on Dolley Green. It was unusually well attended, and followed by an extremely enjoyable guided tour of Upper Dolley Farmhouse (recipient of our 2018 Louis Hurley Award) with tea and sandwiches graciously provided and hosted by John and Diana Trew. This remarkable ancient farmhouse was painstakingly restored, with ancient mullions and carved timber revealed when corrugated iron was removed.
This was followed on the 28th by an inspiring talk from Tom Davies at the Offa’s Dyke Centre in Knighton. There was standing room only as he extolled the glories of our countryside and the kindness of its people that he came across in the course of an 1100 mile walk around our borders. This was followed by a short walk on the Offa’s Dyke.
(Further info on the Upper Dolley visit and Tom Davies’ talk here.)
This was the text of the chairman’s report at the AGM which will serve as an update for all our members:
“Another busy year for us. The proliferation of intensive livestock units continues to be front and central to our concerns over water and air quality. Last year’s petition to the Welsh Assembly Petitions Committee has appeared to get some traction at the Welsh Assembly and we have secured a place on the Town and Country Planning Intensive Agriculture Working Group which meets this autumn, but we are not seeing any improvement on the ground so far in Powys, where applications continue to be waved through with almost no exception. Our efforts may have contributed to announcements by Cargill-Avara that it will be concentrating growth elsewhere in future, but actions speak louder than words. We have been working with Shropshire and Herefordshire CPRE branches to extend our intensive poultry farm mapping over the border. Chris Bruce has worked steadfastly on these new interactive poultry farm maps (displayed at the Royal Welsh this week) and keep updated versions, along with everything else on our website, for which we are eternally grateful.
On the hard fought Hendy development, the Inspector’s long awaited and very thorough report was finally published in late October recommending refusal. We were nonplussed to discover that the Welsh Minister Lesley Griffiths had nevertheless overruled both the Inspector’s and Powys Planning Committee decisions and decided that she would allow the development to proceed. Which it did with reckless haste, before any of the onerous and detailed conditions precedent, confirmed by the minister herself, had been discharged, and in the face of determined local opposition on the ground. It turned out this is because a turbine had to be erected before January 31st this year in order for the development to qualify for the very last tranche of subsidised prices.
So we again rang the tocsin and were delighted to be able to raise over £40,000 to initiate a judicial review of this infamous decision. I will not go in to the complex ups and downs of the legal battle. At present we are awaiting a crucial ruling from the Court of Appeal in London. We would not have got this far without the unhesitating support of CPRW Central, who launched a nationwide appeal to help us. Meanwhile Christine, Margaret and Sarah have fought tirelessly to hold PCC to account over the discharge of conditions, while BRAG, Nigel and Azra have done the same on the ground. Local communities are incensed.
Powys Council is not helping public participation in planning decisions with its decision to stop publishing any third party representations from stakeholder organisations or the general public. This is an issue we need your help to tackle in the coming year.
On a lighter note we held another very popular symposium, this time on the Soil beneath our Feet at Talgarth Town Hall at the beginning of November, chaired by John Scullion from IBERs in Aberystwyth. The academic excellence was complemented with reports from two farmers with hands on experience of the matter, underlining the importance we attach to engagement with the farming community who maintain our beloved landscape. This year’s symposium will be held on the 10th November in collaboration with the Woodland Trust.
Last year awards were made and a well-attended reception was held in the stunning glass-blowing studio at Hares Green. The Louis Hurley Prize was awarded to Upper Dolley (2018) and Hares Green Farm (2017), and our annual Rural Wales Award was made posthumously to Alan Loveridge for his pioneering work on intensive poultry farming in Powys and accepted by his widow Janice.
Sadly this is the last AGM where Ann Payne our steadfast membership secretary and treasurer will attend in that capacity and we offer her our heartfelt thanks. I am taking on the Treasurer role and Margaret is taking on Membership temporarily we are looking for a replacement. I am glad to report that our membership has increased by over 10 % in the year, but we must continue to try to engage younger generations in our struggle. CPRW central is appointing a part time communications officer to try to help achieve this. Thanks to all our supporters, our committee and our membership for keeping our valiant little team of volunteers fighting for the good of our countryside.”
UPDATES: 1. Hendy Wind Farm
The battle for Hendy continues apace as the developer attempts to pass off as ‘non-material’ alterations to the conditions implicit in the Minister’s consent. For example, they want to change the condition saying a turbine, which does not produce electricity for 6 months, must be removed, and change the condition requiring a traffic plan for turbine transport prior to construction. This is because Turbine 5 has not produced electricity for 6 months and they want to get on with construction for the other 6 turbines before producing any plans for access from the A44 and before satisfying the Welsh Government about transport safety. The developer has already breached essential planning conditions and, according to planning and environmental impact regulations, should now apply for planning permission for the changed access and layout plans but so far there is no evidence that Powys will require this.
2. Welsh Government National Development Framework (NDF) Consultation (closing date 1/11/19)
This consultation sets a 20-year vision for Wales. The NDF, combined with Planning Policy Wales 10, governs the Strategic Development Plan for Mid and West Wales (Powys, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire), which, in turn, governs our Local Powys Planning. During the examination of the Powys LDP, substantial Proposed Local Search Areas for wind energy were abandoned because AECOM finally admitted that, after they had applied their exclusion criteria, there were no suitable areas left. However the draft NDF now proposes different Priority Areas for renewable wind and solar energy. The NDF provides a crude map of these (below) and says there will be a presumption of approval of planning applications within Priority Areas but does not explain the criteria for selection.
This link will get you to the Welsh Government Documents.
As the consultation progresses, BRB-CPRW will be publishing more information and maps to help you see exactly where these areas are in relation to existing Strategic Search Areas and Powys Solar Local Search Areas. We have already prepared one which puts the Priority Areas more in context with the landscape resources of Wales. That is shown below the Welsh Government’s Priority Area map. Clicking on our map will enable you to download a PDF version enabling you to zoom in and perhaps find your town or village. (Alternatively you can right-click on a map and “Save Target As” or equivalent to download the PDF.)
SAVE THE DATE: November 10th 2019: Trees and Woodlands of Wales
This is a full day public Seminar in cooperation with the Woodland Trust at the Metropole Hotel, Llandrindod Wells.
Our trees and woodland ecosystems are facing huge and multiple pressures. Our speakers will be looking at the character and importance of woods and trees in Wales, the threats to their extent and health and current Welsh policy. We are very pleased to have as keynote speaker George Peterken the recognised woodland ecologist and pioneer of the recognition and protection of Britain’s Ancient Woodlands.
This online survey, run by Cardiff University and Queen’s University Belfast, aims to compare stakeholder perceptions of planning in Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The researchers aim to publish a final report by the end of the year which will ‘directly inform the discussion, design and delivery of planning policy and the governance, resourcing and regulation of development’.
This is a valuable opportunity to set out any concerns you may have about the Welsh planning system, its operation and its direction.
The survey can be accessed on this link and will remain open until Monday 30 September 2019.
Intensive Poultry Units Across Herefordshire, Shropshire and Powys
Some of our neighbouring counties over the border in England are also concerned about the proliferation of Intensive Poultry Units (IPUs) in our landscape, with the impacts of ammonia, nitrogen deposition and phosphates on biodiversity and human health, and the consequent deterioration of rural living conditions and our rural landscapes.
In Spring 2019 four of the NGOs who have these concerns met in Shropshire to discuss the issue. These organisations were the Herefordshire and Shropshire branches of Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), Shropshire Wildlife Trust (SWT) and us, the Brecon & Radnor branch of Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales (CPRW).
CPRW already have a database of IPUs in Powys and have published various maps on our website (here and here) illustrating the issue in our county. The two CPREs and SWT have also been developing a comprehensive record of IPUs in their own counties.
It was agreed at the meeting to form a combined CPRE/SWT/CPRW team to rationalise and consolidate the various IPU datasets across the counties, and to build on CPRW’s work by developing some combined maps from this data to illustrate the IPU issues across the three counties.
Therefore here is some further background to the project, and our first few combined cross-border IPU maps, with data to hand as at July 2019. We hope you “enjoy” them!
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