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!
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.
A special opportunity to experience the beauty and importance of Traditional Hay Meadows in our farming landscape led by Conservationist, Photographer and Farmer’s Wife SORCHA LEWIS.
Sorcha will give us some history of the Elan Valley, its management by the Welsh Water Elan Valley Trust and the variety of wildlife that it supports. Troedrhiwdrian Farm is in the High Nature Value Scheme.
The visit will be approximately two hours.
We meet Sorcha in Car Park No.7 Gwaelod y Rhos (see map on this link) at 2.00pm on SUNDAY 30th JUNE.
Members Only: Limited numbers, booking essential. To book – Tel: 01544 267418 or email email@example.com. (B&R CPRW Committee)
At Ackhill School Room, Dolley Green, LD8 2EE, nr Presteigne.
The School Room is known as ‘The Tin Tabernacle’ and dates from 1905.
By kind permission of Pastor Richard Mansell.
Parking adjacent to the School Room. www.ackhillbaptistchurch.org
The AGM is followed by a VISIT to UPPER DOLLEY FARMHOUSE with a TALK and TEA at 3.00pm courtesy of John and Diana Trew, recipient of the 2018 Louis Hurley Architectural Award for major restoration of an historic early Welsh Marches Farmstead Grade II*.
Members only visit to Upper Dolley Farmhouse. (Non-members may attend the AGM but obviously cannot vote!)
Please book to reserve your place for this event by July 14th.
Tel: 01544 267418 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. (B&R CPRW Committee)
COME and BE INSPIRED by a TALK and TEA EVENT with local author TOM DAVIES on SUNDAY 28th JULY at 2.30pm at the Offa’s Dyke Centre, Knighton, LD7 1EN in celebration of the Offa’s Dyke Association’s 50th Anniversary.
Tom will be talking about his 1,100 mile adventure from his home in Presteigne , heading north along the Offa’s Dyke National Trail and continuing along the entire length of the Welsh Coastal Path, arriving home some ten weeks later.
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,
Chair, Brecon & Radnor CPRW
22 March 2019
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