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Minister urged to look into rise in poultry units

Created on 26/06/2020 @ 09:58
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A Welsh Government Minister has been asked to protect the Montgomeryshire environment from increasing numbers of poultry units.

Joyce Watson, Member of the Senedd for Mid and West Wales, has asked Lesley Griffiths, Minister Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs to consider the impact of the poultry units following the granting of more through the planning process.

Chicken farms in Welshpool, Llanfair Caereinion, Llanidloes and Llandrindod Wells have been allowed to progress, bringing more than 130,000 birds into the county, said Ms Watson.

She has asked the Environment Minister to ensure that local planning decisions consider environmental and community concerns, as well as the overall number of farms in an area.

The minister confirmed that her department is looking at how local planning authorities plan for new poultry development, and the town and country planning intensive agricultural working group has been convened to advise on how development plan policies should be prepared.

Mrs Watson asked the minister in the Senedd following discussions of the danger of imported chlorinated chicken in post-Brexit trade deals.

Joyce Watson MS, Mid and West Wales, said: "The Agricultural Bill must include legal guarantees that animal welfare and environmental standards won't be cut in post-Brexit trade deals with the USA or anybody else, for that matter.

"We've all seen the headlines about the chlorinated chicken, but we've got issues with chicken farms in Wales, specifically in Powys, with the council just granting permission for four more farms, and said that there won't be a moratorium on planning applications.

"And I find that particularly concerning that all planning applications that require an environmental impact assessment in Powys will be determined by just one planning officer, not the council's planning committee.

"National Resources Wales has previously expressed concerns about the accumulative environmental impact on chicken farms on ancient woodlands and ground water, and I've raised this issue many times myself.

"So, can I ask you, Minister, if you look at the situation in Powys, and assess the need for planning applications to take account of existing farms and the burden on the local environment and the community?"

Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths responded: "In response to your question around poultry farms: where planning permission is required for new poultry sheds, they do have to consider the economic benefits and the environmental impacts of the proposals, and it does include the cumulative effect of increasing the number of developments.

"We are looking at how local planning authorities plan for new poultry development, and we've convened the town and country planning intensive agricultural working group to advise on how development plan policies should be prepared, and the material considerations involved in determining planning applications.

"The planning system doesn't operate in isolation, and other regulatory regimes such as environmental permitting and statutory nuisance will control the impact that these developments on the localities also."

Speaking after the debate, Mrs Watson said: "Local residents have asked me to raise their objections to these developments. There are health and traffic concerns, and Natural Resources Wales have raised objections to the Welshpool site. The Llanfair Caereinion site runs through a public right of way.

"Poultry farms have wide-ranging impacts. They produce a huge amount of manure which can run off into local rivers during heavy rain, polluting them with phosphates. These fuel algal blooms which can choke rivers, damaging eco-systems and harming the fish and wildlife which depend on them. I believe we need to factor the risk of extreme weather into our planning.

"Media coverage highlights the impact of egg farms on the river Wye. Reports state there were 116 applications for poultry units in Powys, including 83 for free-range eggs, between July 2015 and June 2018. The Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales (CPRW) are reported as saying that just two applications were refused in that time. 

"I am monitoring this closely and I will continue to pursue this until assurances are met."
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