Mid Wales

Powys 'mega dairy': Public inquiry over Leighton plan

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Media captionFarmer Fraser Jones wants to build one of the first 'mega dairies' in Wales at his farm in Leighton, near Welshpool

A public inquiry has begun into Powys council's decision to refuse planning for a major expansion to a dairy farm housing 1,000 cattle next to a village primary school.

Farmer Fraser Jones wants to build one of the first "mega dairies" in Wales at his farm in Leighton, near Welshpool.

Local residents and animal welfare groups have opposed his plan.

But Mr Jones said he had gone to great lengths to address all the concerns.

The plans include three large buildings, a fodder storage unit, two slurry stores and a water storage tower.

But villagers say the dairy will be too close to their homes and the school, and objections have been raised about noise, the smell, flies, pollution, increased traffic, the size of the development and its visual impact.

Ahead of the public inquiry starting in Welshpool on Tuesday, Mr Jones, who currently milks 300 cows, said: "I hope that the inspector sees we have thought through the application and that the objections have been thoroughly addressed.

"We have included measures to monitor flies, the smell, animal welfare. We have gone to great lengths to address people's concerns."

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Media caption"1,000 cows is very common in the UK now," says farmer Fraser Jones

He said the cows, which would be inside for 250 days a year, would be continually monitored and his dairy would promote good animal welfare.

"The shed [where the animals will live] is designed around the animals, whereas the old cow sheds were designed around the farm," Mr Jones added.

But Geoff Vine, chair of governors at Leighton Primary School, said he feared the school would close if the dairy was built.

"My main concern is health grounds, " he said.

"After reading a lot of research, from the US and Europe, there is scientific evidence to suggest it's dangerous and harmful to children.

"As far as the Welsh government is concerned, there are no regulations for this type of dairy farm. We are going into the unknown.

"The school's head teacher is convinced that the school will close if the dairy goes ahead because parents will move their children. The knock-on effect would be the closure of the village hall."

A local action group has been formed to oppose the dairy development, and the scheme has attracted criticism from the National Trust which is concerned about the visual impact on nearby Powis Castle.

But Mr Jones has said he intends to plant trees to screen the dairy.

In November 2011, Powys council's planning committee said it was minded to approve the dairy application subject to a report about "outstanding issues". It had been recommended for refusal.

But the matter was discussed again last October after changes in the council's constitution and committee membership, and it was rejected.

The Welsh government called in the application in January 2012. The inquiry is scheduled for eight days.

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