- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Category: Feature
A fight against plans for a US-style mega-dairy in Mid Wales moves to the National Assembly for Wales this week.
Assembly Member Joyce Watson has joined forces with several groups campaigning against plans to build an “industrial-scale” dairy farm next door to a school in the village of Leighton, near Welshpool.
Mrs Watson is hosting an event at the Senedd on Tuesday (5 March) to mark the start of a ten-day public hearing in Welshpool, to resolve a long-running planning dispute.
The application would see a 1000-cow dairy farm built at Lower Leighton Farm. The applicant, farmer Fraser Jones, has met fierce opposition from local residents who formed the Campaign Against Lower Leighton Farm Expansion (CALFe) group, as well as from charities including the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and the National Trust.
Mrs Watson, AM for Mid and West Wales and a former Labour Party spokesperson for rural affairs, opposed Powys Council’s decision in 2011 to approve the application. Last month she attended a public meeting in Leighton. Speaking after her visit, she said:
“Looking round the site, I fully appreciate what is at stake – a dairy this big in a village this small would have a hugely harmful impact. Wales should celebrate and support its traditional dairy farmers not go down the road of US-style mega-dairies.
“With the full extent of the horsemeat scandal still coming to light, consumers want food they can trace and trust. Industrial-scale farms would be a big step in the wrong direction – bad for cows, bad for farmers, bad for consumers and bad for the environment.”
Mr Jones was forced to withdraw his initial application when the Environment Agency voiced concerns about the risks posed to groundwater and how manure would be managed. The plans were resubmitted and approved by Powys County Council, against the advice of the council’s own planning officials. Following public outcry, the Welsh Government ‘called in’ the application in January 2012. Then, in November 2012 the council overturned its own decision and rejected the proposals. A public inquiry will now be held in early March before Welsh Ministers make the final decision.
Local campaign group CALFe believes that if the plans are approved it will have a detrimental impact on the local community and environment as the farm would be situated within 100 metres of the local primary school and village hall.
According to WSPA, keeping cows indoors in ‘battery style’ housing inhibits their natural behaviour and puts them at greater risk of disease, injury and premature death.
WSPA will be giving evidence at the upcoming inquiry and believes that the implications of this decision will be felt far beyond Welshpool and far beyond Wales as the battle to keep British cows in fields and out of factory-style farms continues.
Last year Mrs Watson secured cross-party political support for her campaign against industrial-scale indoor dairies. Thirteen AMs backed Mrs Watson’s Statement of Opinion in support of traditional Welsh dairy farming.