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Brecon & Radnor Branch CPRW: August 2019 Newsletter

Brecon & Radnor Branch CPRW: August 2019 Newsletter

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.

AGM
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.)

Welsh Government National Development Framework Wind & Solar Priority Areas

 

NDF Priority and Strategic Search Areas with National Parks, AONBs and National Trails

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.

To reserve places please email iainaitken@lineone.net or ch306@icloud.com.


Have your say on Welsh Planning – Online Survey

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

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!

Hendy Windfarm – July 2019 Update

Hendy Windfarm – July 2019 Update

I am sure that members and supporters will be wondering what is going on with our legal challenge against Lesley Griffiths’ decision to allow wind farm construction to proceed against the recommendation of both our County Council and the Independent Inspector’s Report. We are still waiting for a decision from an Appeals Court Judge. We have been waiting since March, when our lawyers filed our Appeal against refusal of permission to proceed with the challenge. Of course we are keeping our fingers crossed and all hope we can take our challenge forward.

Meanwhile the developer is continuing to submit applications to discharge pre-commencement conditions in a fantastically haphazard and lackadaisical manner. Their claims to have ‘kept local communities closely involved’ are as hollow as their ‘respect for the environment’. These conditions should have been discharged before any work began but Powys Council found it “expedient” not to enforce against construction of Turbine 5.

Our dedicated volunteers have been taking Powys Council planning department to task on each of these conditions. See letter complaining about the changes to the development, lack of plans and piecemeal nature of what ought to be a watertight and well-thought-out Planning Application for such a massive project.

We would be most grateful if you can think of any charitable or representative body (e.g. Wildlife Trust or Community Council) that would write to Powys Planning Department to reinforce this plea for proper planning procedure.

The recent refusal of the M4 Newport Relief Road is a powerful reminder that we have to have the heart to play a long game.

With best wishes and thanks again to all for your support.

Jonty Colchester
Chair, Brecon and Radnor CPRW

Hendy Windfarm – March 2019 Update #3

Hendy Windfarm – March 2019 Update #3

HENDY WIND-FARM at LLANDEGLEY RHOS: APPEAL

Following Monday’s disappointing judgment by Sir Wyn Williams refusing us permission for judicial review, CPRW supporters will be very pleased to hear that, after consultation with our legal team Richard Buxton Solicitors and Cornerstone Barristers, and with their generous support, we have today decided to seek to appeal the decision.

Planning Policy Wales fully acknowledges the importance of wind-farms and sets out very clear criteria for their location. It states that only in EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES can they be located near ancient monuments. It was for this reason that Powys County Council rejected the Hendy Developers’ application by 11-1, and that the Inspector rejected the Developers’ appeal in May last year. It did not seem tenable to us that after twenty years of national and local debates about the location of wind farms in sensitive landscapes, the Welsh Government’s Lesley Griffiths could decide that exceptional circumstances existed to allow this wind farm – and without explaining why.

CPRW nationally and locally are NOT opposed to wind-farms in principle. They are a vital alternative energy source and as such a counter to climate change. Powys is already a huge net energy exporter. But they should not and cannot be located haphazardly all over sensitive landscapes, and we are resolved to fight to the last to prevent this happening.

The fact that the Developers immediately proceeded with unauthorised work, without fulfilling any of the conditions set out in the permission and with reckless haste, serves only to confirm their indifference to the environment and the local community. For the record, the development company is owned by U&I Ltd, London-based speculative property developers.

Thanks to the many local residents and community groups who have supported us, we will be able to continue the humble struggle for our wonderful landscape in the Courts. Even if we do not succeed, we consider we must make the effort to go to appeal.

With all best wishes,

Jonty Colchester
Chair, Brecon & Radnor CPRW
22 March 2019

Hendy Windfarm – March 2019 Update #2

Hendy Windfarm – March 2019 Update #2

We have been informed today by Cardiff Court that we have failed to get permission to proceed with the appeal against Lesley Griffiths’ decision. An appeal against this decision will cost us more money than we can afford, and looks unlikely to succeed.

I know this will be a huge disappointment to all our supporters and to the many of you who have contributed to the cause, to the many that worked hard on the case and turned out in all weathers on Llandegley Rhos.

There is some comfort to be drawn from the fact that we have shown that imperious decisions like this will not go unchallenged; that onshore wind farms located insensitively generate a lot of local opposition and a lot of bad press as well as a full on legal fight; that the regulator has been thoroughly apprised of the unauthorised nature of the works that were rushed through to gain accreditation, and the popular anger felt by taxpayers as a result.

So all has not been lost. In the light of the above, and with the ceasing of the on shore subsidy system, it seems much less likely that there will be a repeat of such a farce.

Thank you to all those who have supported us: we can only apologise that we could not prevail.

Jonty Colchester
Chair Brecon &Radnor Branch CPRW

Hendy Windfarm – March 2019 Update

Hendy Windfarm – March 2019 Update

As you are well aware, the Hendy developers pushed ahead with the development without fulfilling any of the required conditions, almost as soon as permission was granted by the Minister, Lesley Griffiths.

We appealed that decision, and nearly all of you have helped us raise the money to finance that appeal. Grounds for appeal were lodged by mid December.

However it became clear that the developers were going to have installed the first turbine before the appeal was even heard. We were therefore diverted in to a fight to halt the works. Powys County Council ruled that the works were unauthorised on December 6th, but did nothing to enforce a halt. We were successful in obtaining an urgent injunction to halt the works in Cardiff Crown Court. But at the Birmingham hearing on 20th December, our injunction to stop the unauthorised work was lifted.

Despite a lot of press coverage and local protest, the first turbine was erected just in time for the development to attempt to qualify for an Ofgem Subsidised Tariff. With this tariff in place the development will be worth a lot of money. As you would expect, we have advised Ofgem of the unlawful nature of the development and questioned whether this is really what tax payers’ money is supposed to be for. We were glad to see the case made it in to Private Eye last week (issue 1490).

Meanwhile, the appeal process is grinding on. We have to get leave to appeal, and were asked to attend a Permission Hearing in Cardiff on the 25th February, to decide this. Although this is supposed to be an ‘ex parte’ hearing, it was contested by QCs representing both the developer and the Government. Sir Wynn Williams the presiding Judge unexpectedly ruled that he was ‘reserving judgement’ so at this stage, some two week after the hearing we are in limbo as to whether the appeal will proceed or no.

Thanks to all who have contributed towards this legal fight, and to all those locals who have made their voices heard on the embattled Common, in order to prevent a precedent being set that threatens anywhere in Wales with a ministerial diktat.

With all best wishes

Jonty Colchester
Chair CPRW Brecon and Radnor Branch
9 March 2019

Hendy Windfarm – Update and Appeal

Hendy Windfarm – Update and Appeal

Friday 21 December 2018
CPRW Brecon & Radnor branch were successful in gaining an Injunction against further concreting works on Monday December 17th from the Cardiff High Court. We were bitterly disappointed to see this discharged yesterday 20th December in the Birmingham Civil Justice Centre. However the ‘pour’ has now been postponed until January 3rd as the Breedon Quarry is closed.

We are actively considering issuing a Judicial Review if Powys County Council agree that the pour can proceed. Central CPRW are fully behind such action and their instant response (to an urgent telephone call from the court yesterday!) has been magnificent.

Meanwhile the main action, the Section 288 Appeal against Lesley Griffiths’ incomprehensible decision to ignore Powys County Council, the just-approved Powys LDP, and the Inspector’s recommendation to reject the Developer’s appeal, will proceed at all possible speed.

The legal actions are consuming huge amounts of our time, but more worryingly huge amounts of money.

Please continue to give generously to save the Llandegley Rhos!

Many thanks, and Best Wishes to all at this Christmas Festival Season.

Jonathan Colchester – Chair B&R CPRW


Appeal Account Details: EVERY LITTLE HELPS!

B&R Branch CPRW AC 29455868 Lloyds Bank SC 30-94-99

CPRW Is a Registered Charity No 239899 – If you are a UK taxpayer, please consider filling out the gift aid form HERE. This will add 25% to your donation at no cost to you.

If paying by cheque, please make it out to “CPRW – Brecon & Radnor”. Cheques and gift aid forms should be sent to Ann Payne, Glanffrwd, Llanfihangel Talyllin, Brecon, LD3 7TL.

GIFT AID FORM AVAILABLE HERE

Thank you.

Hendy Windfarm – Further News

Hendy Windfarm – Further News

On Friday 14th December CPRW B&R have issued to the courts in Cardiff an urgent claim for interim stay which, if successful, will require the developer to cease all work on site until the s288 challenge to the Minister’s decision is heard by the courts. We are hoping to have a decision on this by the middle of next week and we will advise as soon as we have news. Contravention of an order for interim relief is contempt of court for which the defendant can be imprisoned, fined or have assets sequestrated.

Holly Ann Hobbs has just announced late Friday afternoon that while the developer is permitted to install steel rods, a Temporary Stop Notice will be issued if he attempts any further work beyond the installation of the rods, such as the concrete pour.

We are disappointed that the Temporary Stop Notice has not been issued with immediate effect and unable to understand why this developer has been offered any further concessions at all.

We will have to remain very vigilant. This developer has already demonstrated his contempt for planning law and is unlikely to change his behaviour now.

HENDY WIND FARM DISGRACE

HENDY WIND FARM DISGRACE

CPRW Brecon and Radnor Branch: Communication to Membership

As you are all well aware, and many of you have already generously contributed towards the fund for legal fees for this action, CPRW B&R served papers on 6 December on Welsh Government and Interested Parties for a Section 288 Review of the Minister, Lesley Griffiths’, incomprehensible decision to allow the Hendy Wind Farm development.

As you are also well aware this challenge is being overtaken by events.

The construction work at Hendy/Llandegley Rhos began on 20th November immediately after submission of applications to discharge conditions, and continues at breakneck speed, at nights and at weekends, with no regard for permitted hours of work. The developers are evidently determined to erect one turbine before the end of January in order, it seems, to be eligible for government subsidy.

Works have taken place on the Llandegley Rhos common and more are proposed for which no planning consent has been applied for or obtained. Construction teams have been pile driving on the wind farm site and concrete is now arriving on site for the first turbine base.

This work is being carried out without any of the pre-commencement planning conditions being discharged. These conditions are all binding and the Minister’s consent is contingent upon the conditions being satisfied in full and discharged.

While heroic demonstrators at the site have done their best to delay these works on common land, we have made repeated representations to Powys County Council to enforce a halt to these illegal works without any tangible result. On 6th December Powys informed residents that the developer had been ‘advised to stop’ but that no enforcement notice had been issued. Since then the council have professed themselves unable to get ‘evidence of unacceptable harm’ – which Planning Officers maintain to be a requirement for enforcement action.

We have set out that the Council has applied the wrong tests re enforcement action and has misinterpreted material points of law to reach their decision not to enforce against construction works, which are of themselves unlawful because they have not followed approved plans, and are being undertaken without discharge of pre-commencement conditions.

We have this morning served on the Council a pre-action protocol letter, addressing the legalities of the Council’s position on enforcement. In it we demand that effective enforcement action is undertaken by the end of this week or that we will forthwith issue proceedings against them for a judicial review of the enforcement function.

It seems that the developers, Powys County Council and the Welsh Government consider they have no need to heed or uphold the law. With your help we are going to make them feel the full force of it.

Jonathan Colchester – Chair B&R CPRW

Notorious Hendy Windfarm Decision Before the Welsh Assembly Tuesday 20th November

Notorious Hendy Windfarm Decision Before the Welsh Assembly Tuesday 20th November

Dear All,

For urgent action! Please pass on this urgent message on, and don’t forget to write in yourself! Thank you.

This just came to our attention last night: Lesley Giffiths’ decision to approve the Hendy Wind Farm is to be challenged by an amendment in Welsh Assembly Plenary session next Tuesday (20 November). This just underlines the importance of her decision to flout the Planning System and Local Democracy. See how you can help below.

With National CPRW’s help, the Brecon and Radnor Branch, often co-operating with Montgomery Branch, has

  • Raised public awareness of the stealthy introduction of huge wind and solar “search areas” all over the wildest and most beautiful parts of Powys into the LDP;
  • Fought to improve the Powys LDP at the Inspector’s Examination with the help of a barrister, resulting in abandonment of all wind and some solar “search areas”;
  • Worked with local residents to fight against Hendy Wind Farm which application was eventually turned down by Powys Planning Committee;
  • Raised awareness of the Developer’s Appeal against the Powys refusal;
  • Held a Starling-Watch day to bring crowds to see the vast starling murmurations settle to roost on Llandegley Rhos, the Hendy Wind farm site;
  • Engaged a barrister and landscape consultant and provided our own witnesses throughout the two weeks of the Inspector’s Public Inquiry.

The Planning Inspector recommended the Appeal against refusal of the Hendy Wind Farm be dismissed because the landscape and ancient monuments of Llandegley Rhos outweighed any benefits of the 7 turbine Wind Farm.

Lesley Griffiths, Minister of Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs summarily over-ruled him. If this decision stands, no Welsh landscape outside National Parks and Designated Areas is safe from large-scale industrialisation however much it is valued by Welsh people. Please help CPRW do all we can to stop it.

All this has cost a huge amount of time, energy and emotional resource for us and our many supporters. The planning process has also cost the public purse dearly. Please tell our politicians what you think and ask for their support.

HENDY WIND FARM DECISION: HOW YOU CAN HELP
On Tuesday 20th November there is an opportunity to put pressure on the Welsh Government concerning Lesley Griffith’s decision to overrule the Planning Inspector’s dismissal of the Hendy Wind Farm Appeal following the vote by Powys County Council Planning Committee to refuse the application in September 2017.

The Senedd is holding a Plenary session on Tuesday 20th November at 13.30pm.

Item No. 9 is a 60 min debate: ‘How to achieve a low carbon energy system for Wales’.

Amendment 3 to this debate has been tabled by Darren Miller (Clwyd West) calling on the Welsh Assembly:
to reconsider Lesley Griffith’s decision to allow the Hendy Wind Farm application against the decisions of both the Powys County Council Planning Committee and the Planning Inspectorate.”

Please send an e-mail to Brecon and Radnor A. M. Kirsty Williams, who rightly objected to this development at the planning stage:
kirsty.williams@assembly.wales or correspondence.kirsty.williams@gov.wales.

Ask her to vote for this amendment in the Senedd on Tuesday and to stand by her original objection to the Hendy Windfarm development. Her vote is key in this matter.

She is keeping the balance of power for the minority Labour government, who will be whipping their members on this amendment.

Kirsty has the opportunity either to vote in the interests of her constituents and to stand up for local democracy and the legitimacy of the Powys LDP, or to take the Labour Party whip to support Lesley Griffith’s unprecedented decision, which as it stands, creates open season on development anywhere in Wales by setting the precedent of overruling both the Planning Inspectorate and local planning policy thereby undermining the democratic process of the planning system.

We have four more A.M’s representing us for Mid-Wales. They should also be lobbied. Please write to:

neil.hamilton@assembly.wales
eluned.morgan@assembly.wales
joyce.watson@assembly.wales
helenmary.jones@assembly.wales

You could also write to AMs in other parts of Wales – this decision sets a precedent for the whole Welsh Countryside.

Thank you.

Llandegley Rocks – the landscape we are fighting for