Mid Wales

Powys 'super dairy' called in by Welsh government

Image caption The dairy is planned for Lower Leighton Farm in Leighton, near Welshpool

Controversial plans for a "super dairy" in Powys will be decided by the Welsh government.

Farmer Fraser Jones plans to build the dairy for 1,000 cattle in Leighton, near Welshpool.

Last November, Powys council's planning committee said it was "minded to approve" the application, subject to a report about "outstanding issues".

Mr Jones said he was "slightly disappointed" the Welsh government was calling in the application.

Environment Minister John Griffiths is concerned about the risk of pollution from slurry spreading, and the planned dairy's visual impact on nearby Powis Castle.

The development is opposed by a number of interested groups, and is earmarked for farmland near homes and the village primary school.

In a letter to Powys council's head of planning services, the Welsh government said: "In the minister's view there is insufficient information in these respects to show that all the relevant policy considerations have been fully addressed by Powys County Council's planning committee in reaching its decision on the planning application."

Council officers had recommended that planning approval for the dairy should be refused, but councillors ignored advice to reject it at a meeting on 1 November.

Mr Jones said: "I'm slightly disappointed and a bit surprised that they're calling it in.

"But hopefully the Welsh government will realise that there are no pollution risks or other issues which should stop this going ahead, which is what the councillors felt after they came here on a site visit."

Compassion in World Farming claimed in 2010 that Mr Jones's plans were factory farming.

'Mega dairy'

He denied this and said his animals' health would be monitored all the time, and he claimed the dairy would improve milking conditions.

Mr Jones has said his cows would be inside for 250 days of the year.

Powys council said it had been informed about the Welsh government's decision.

Local action group Calfe (Campaign Against Leighton Farm expansion) welcomed the intervention.

It said: "Calfe is also pleased that the minister considers that there is insufficient information to show that all the relevant policy considerations have been fully addressed by Powys County Council's planning committee in reaching its decision on this planning application.

"The minister has also concluded that the application appears to conflict with national policies relating to pollution control and conservation of the historic environment."

The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) said it was delighted.

"Allowing a mega dairy to be built in rural Wales, which has some of the best pasture in Britain, would be a worrying precedent to set," said Simon Pope of WSPA UK.

Mid and West Wales assembly member Joyce Watson also welcomed the news, adding: "A dairy this size in a village this small is unprecedented in Wales, probably the UK. It demands the closest scrutiny and the most careful consideration".

Fellow AM Rebecca Evans said the farm plans raised issues "far beyond local importance".

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