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 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 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. (NRW guidance on assessment of ammonia impacts is undergoing further change, with revised guidance likely to be published in January 2021.) However, here in Powys we have not seen appropriate consideration of landscape, environmental and amenity impacts, and cumulative 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 evolved, please see the Petitions Committee website where transcripts, webcasts and minutes of Committee debates are available.
The petition was debated at a number of meetings of the Petitions Committee and information has been passed to the Committee on Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs for their consideration. See links below to key responses from NRW, Environment Minister Lesley Griffiths, Housing and Local Development Minister Julie James, and CPRW B&R responses and additional evidence:
- 30th April 2018: Lesley Griffiths to Petitions Committee
- 30th May 2018: CPRW B&R to Petitions Committee – response to Lesley Griffiths letter of 30 April;
- 5th June 2018: Research briefing;
- 12th June 2018: Chief Planning Officer letter to County Council Heads of Planning;
- 3rd July 2018: Lesley Griffiths to Petitions Committee;
- 17th August 2018: Dr Madeleine Harvard, Acting Chair, NRW, to Petitions Committee;
- 18th September 2018: CPRW B&R to Petitions Committee – response to Lesley Griffiths & NRW letters;
- 13th December 2018: Lesley Griffiths to Petitions Committee;
- 21st January 2019: CPRW B&R to Petitions Committee – response to Lesley Griffiths letter of 13th December;
- 12th February 2019: Petitions Committee to Mike Hedges, MS, Chair of the Climate Change, Environment & Rural Affairs Committee;
- 6th March 2019: Lesley Griffiths to Petitions Committee;
- 25th March 2019: CPRW B&R to Petitions Committee – response to Lesley Griffiths letter of 6th March.
- 25th June 2019: Julie James to Petitions Committee & Annex to letter.
- 2nd July 2019: CPRW B&R to Petitions Committee – response to Julie James letter of 25th June.
- 28th October 2019: Julie James to Petitions Committee
- 13th November 2019: CPRW B&R to Petitions Committee – response to Julie James letter of 28th October
- 19th November 2019: Lesley Griffiths to Petitions Committee
- 20th December 2019: Julie James to Petitions Committee
- 14th January 2020: CPRW B&R to Petitions Committee in response to Ministers’ letters
- 28th February 2020: Ceri Davies, Executive Director for Evidence, Policy & Permitting, NRW, to Petitions Committee
- 17th March 2020: Lesley Griffiths to Petitions Committee
- 17th June 2020: CPRW B&R to Petitions Committee – response to NRW & Lesley Griffiths letters
The Chief Planning Officer’s letter (June 2018) 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 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 would be introduced, to come into play in January 2020. This did not happen and it is still uncertain whether the draft Regulations will be implemented at all.
In mid 2019 the ‘Town & Country Planning Intensive Agriculture Working Group’ was formed to put together a Technical Advice Note to provide planning guidance for intensive livestock units. This was to have been completed by the end of 2019 but discussion having been halted entirely during the pandemic the TAN is still not available in November 2020. While this initiative is welcome guidance alone can’t address our concerns or ensure the sustainability of the industry.
The Petitions Committee discussed our petition at their meetings on 5th June 2018, 25th September 2018, 29th January 2019, 6th March 2019, 2nd April 2019, 9th July 2019, 19th November 2019, 21st January 2020 and 23rd June 2020 – see Petitions Committee webpage.
During the continued consideration of our petition, we hoped 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 have been disappointed by the lack of urgency in the Minister’s responses to the Petitions Committee, and by the failure to take any effective action. We will be continuing to campaign on this issue!
[Revised November 2020]