Over recent years CPRW Brecon & Radnor Branch has grown increasingly concerned at the rapid proliferation of Intensive Poultry Units across Powys, and the failure of Powys Planning Officers to take full and consistent account of the impacts of these developments on rural communities and the environment in the determination of planning applications. We have discussed our concerns with local politicians, Powys Council, the office of the Well-Being Commissioner for Wales and Natural Resources Wales.
In April 2017 Natural Resources Wales introduced some important changes and detailed guidance for Local Planning Authorities, intended to limit environmental damage from ammonia emissions to designated nature sites such as Special Areas of Conservation and Sites of Special Scientific Interest. However, here in Powys we have still not yet seen adequate consideration of landscape, environmental and amenity impacts in the determination of applications. For this reason, we took the decision in early 2018 to petition the Welsh Assembly to take long-term strategic action to ensure that the poultry product industry is environmentally sustainable, in line with commitments in the Government’s recent flagship legislation to ‘sustainable development’, the ‘sustainable development of natural resources’ and the maintenance and enhancement of biodiversity and resilient ecosystems.
During the course of the petition we very much welcomed the help and support of a number of environmental NGOs. These included the Wildlife Trusts, in particular the Radnorshire Wildlife Trust, Plantlife, the Woodland Trust, Countryside Restoration Trust, Campaign for the Protection of Welsh Fisheries, the Angling Trust/Fish Legal among others, as well as a number of high-profile environmental campaigners. On 22nd May 2018, our petition was handed in to the Welsh Assembly Petitions Committee, having attracted 4,567 signatures, mostly from Wales and neighbouring English border counties.
The petition was featured in the local press, on radio and online and has focussed some much needed political attention on the urgent problems surrounding these developments. To see how the debate is evolving, please see the Petitions Committee website where transcripts, webcasts and minutes of Committee debates are available.
The petition has been debated by the Committee on 5th June and 25th September 2018, 29th January and 2nd April 2019, and information has been passed to the Committee on Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs for their consideration. Links are given below to key responses from NRW, Environment Minister Lesley Griffiths, and our own additional CPRW branch submissions:
- 30th April 2018: Letter from Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Environment, Energy & Rural Affairs, to David Rowlands, Chair of the Petitions Committee;
- 30th May 2018: CPRW B&R to David Rowlands, petition evidence provided in response to Lesley Griffiths letter of 30 April;
- 5th June 2018: Research briefing;
- 12th June 2018: Letter from Welsh Government’s Chief Planning Officer to County Council Heads of Planning;
- 3rd July 2018: Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Environment, Energy & Rural Affairs, to David Rowlands, Chair of the Petitions Committee;
- 17th August 2018: Dr Madeleine Harvard, Acting Chair, NRW, to David Rowlands, Chair of the Petitions Committee;
- 18th September 2018: CPRW B&R to David Rowlands, Chair of the Petitions Committee, petition evidence provided in response to Lesley Griffiths;
- 13th December 2018: Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Environment, Energy & Rural Affairs, to David Rowlands, Chair of the Petitions Committee;
- 21st January 2019: CPRW B&R to David Rowlands, Chair of the Petitions Committee, petition evidence provided in response to Lesley Griffiths;
- 12th February 2019: David Rowlands, Chair of the Petitions Committee, to Mike Hedges, AM, Chair of the Climate Change, Environment & Rural Affairs Committee;
- 6th March 2019: Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Environment, Energy & Rural Affairs, to David Rowlands, Chair of the Petitions Committee;
- 25th March 2019: CPRW B&R to David Rowlands, Chair of the Petitions Committee, petition evidence provided in response to Lesley Griffiths.
- 25th June 2019: Julie James, Minister for Housing and Local Development to David Rowlands, Chair of the Petitions Committee. Annex to letter.
- 2nd July 2019: CPRW B&R to David Rowlands,Chair of the Petitions Committee, petition evidence provided in response to Julie James.
- 28th October 2019: Julie James, Minister for Housing and Local Development David Rowlands, Chair of the Petitions Committee
- 13th November 2019: CPRW B&R to David Rowlands, Chair of the Petitions Committee, petition evidence provided in response to Julie James
The Chief Planning Officer’s letter sets out the need to ‘exercise particular care’ when considering applications close to sensitive environmental areas or to homes and schools, and also the need to consider cumulative impacts. While this is most welcome, the letter addresses the range of problems associated with these applications only in very general terms. We have not yet seen any clear impact on the quality of planning decisions in Powys.
In November 2018 the Environment Minster published a Written Statement stating that regulations to tackle agricultural pollution of water will be introduced, to come into play in January 2020.
The Petition Committee discussed the petition on 9th July 2019 and decided to supply CPRW B&R’s additional evidence of 2nd July to:
- the Minister for Environment. Energy and Rural Affairs and ask for her response to the proposal to apply the ‘polluter pays’ principle to the costs of regulation, monitoring and breaches; and
- the Minister for Housing and Local Government in relation to the petitioners’ comments on the terms of reference for the Town& Country Planning Intensive Agriculture Working Group and await the outcomes of its work The Committee also agreed to ask the Minister what consideration she has given to the cumulative impact of planning decision and whether she will consider amending the Planning (Wales) Act 2015 to take this into account.
The Minister’s response on 28th October 2019 did not address these points and left other issues unresolved. The Branch submitted further evidence on 13th November.
During the continued consideration of our petition, we hope to see:
- Acknowledgement of the multiple failures in the determination of these applications;
- Stricter control of impacts on the non-designated natural environment, including ancient woodland;
- Clear guidance on the division of responsibility between NRW and determining LPAs;
- NRW acting up to its responsibility to reverse the decline in biodiversity by maintaining objections where negative impacts are likely;
- An end to reliance on conditions which LPAs have no realistic means of effectively enforcing;
- Development of guidance on human health issues including proximity to residents;
- A biosecurity policy for minimum separation of intensive poultry developments according to type;
- Clear guidance on how LPA decision-making must address cumulative impacts of multiple intensive livestock units on the natural environment and residential amenity;
- Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales address the issue of the lack of effective regulation of intensive poultry units for fewer than 40 thousand birds;
- Development of effective regulation to address diffuse agricultural pollution, along the lines of that in place in England and Scotland;
- Funding of research to improve the evidence base for assessing the true environmental impacts of intensive livestock farming;
- A moratorium on approval of applications to allow assessment of the cumulative environmental impacts of IPUs already existing – see Wales Environment Link position statement.
We will be continuing to campaign on this issue!
Revised October 2019