Ceredigion and Machynlleth campaigners gathered for a protest against intensive chicken farming at Powys County Council House last week.
About 20 concerned residents, including some from Powys’ Extinction Rebellion branch, interrogated councillor and cabinet member Jake Berriman about the disastrous consequences of giving the green light to new intensive poultry units (IPUs) in the county and in Ceredigion.
There are currently 12 applications for IPUs in Powys and a controversial proposal for one in Talybont near Aberystwyth. But campaigners are vying for a moratorium on any new IPU facilities – or for councils to unilaterally commit to blocking any applications.
The Talybont plans are currently under consideration for being called in by the Welsh Government planning inspector, as are the 12 Powys bids.
The application to build a large-scale chicken farm near Talybont - refused by planners in 2021 over a lack of information - was resubmitted by Ty Nant Farm despite receiving more than 450 objections the first time around.
Residents and activists from Environment Action Talybont Sarah Reisz and Barry Wise told the Cambrian News: “Campaigners from Powys and Ceredigion were present at the Powys County Council meeting on Thursday to hear Cllr Jake Berriman’s response to the question posed to the council on how voters can halt the spread of IPUs into mid Wales.
“The Ceredigion campaigners are also objecting to an application for a large IPU in Talybont.
“It is feared that any approval of this application would herald the further spread of these units into Ceredigion, inevitably leading to the kind of damage and environmental degradation already inflicted on the Wye and its catchment area.
“Campaigners spoke to councillors and pointed out that Welsh Local Planning Authorities already have sufficient authority to refuse these applications.
“This is very clearly evidenced and illustrated by the stand made in 2022 by Carmarthenshire County Council when they refused an application for an IPU.”
There are around 140 IPUs in mid Wales and they have become a burning issue recently as much of the degradation and deoxygenation of the River Wye was attributed to them. Campaigners say the ‘dying’ river is facing ecological collapse – a fate that could await other mid Wales watrways.
Activists from Environment Action Talybont, an umbrella group behind the theatrical protests, raised concerns over pollution of the Teifi and the Wye and voiced concerns over plans for a poultry farm near Talybont, which they claim will pollute the river Leri, damaging a rare orchid population.
The small group of protesters called on the Welsh Government to bring in an immediate moratorium on Intensive Poultry Units (IPUs) - which the group says are less like farms and more akin to ‘industrial-sized factories’ that do far more environmental damage.
Retired organic farmer Pam Williams said the damage done by IPUs is props up a supply chain of soya and grain which destroys habitats all over the world, including in the Amazon rainforest.
She said: “Members of Extinction Rebellion groups in Powys and other environmental groups, also desperately concerned about climate change and loss of biodiversity, attended an open meeting of Powys County Council at Llandrindod Wells.
“We submitted a question to the council earlier in the year and had come to hear the council's response.
“We asked what residents can do to stop PCC giving planning permission for new and extensions to Intensive Poultry Units (IPUs), in the light of the damage they cause to watercourses and the potential for the spread of Avian Flu - which was rife at the time the question was submitted.
“Unfortunately, Councillor Jake Berriman, speaking on behalf of the council, failed to address the question as to what Powys residents might do, although he acknowledged that the council is aware that many residents share these concerns and recognises the environmental impacts associated with IPUs.
“It seems that the only hope of change may lie in the Welsh Government's requirement that all local planning authorities include a planning policy on intensive livestock units in their replacement Local Development Plans and he assured us that this is something the council will look at in relation to the legal, regulator, or national policy frameworks.”
Cllr Berriman said: “The Council is aware of the concerns many residents have, and recognises the environmental impacts associated with Intensive poultry Units (IPU) proposals. These impacts are taken into consideration when determining planning applications when the council assiduously follows prevailing legislation, regulations, planning policy and guidance that is in place when a decision is taken.
“Comments made by statutory consultees, including Natural Resources Wales (NRW) are also considered, given their expertise and legal standing in terms of environmental permitting.
“I understand that the Welsh Government is requiring all local planning authorities to include a planning policy on intensive livestock units in their replacement Local Development Plans, and this is something that we will look at in relation to any changes to the legal, regulatory, or national policy frameworks.
“In the meantime, we have recently received notification from Welsh Government that we should not approve a number of such applications we are holding, until they have made clear their view whether they wish to call them in to determine them themselves. This amounts to some 13 applications being held in abeyance currently, with no planning approvals having been issued by Powys Council for an IPU for approximately 12 months.”