Powys 'mega dairy' plan put on hold by judicial review

Farmer Fraser Jones says the delays in the project were "financially devastating"

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A farmer's plan to build a 1,000-cow dairy has been put on hold after an animal welfare group was granted a High Court judicial review.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has been given the go-ahead for judges to review the Welsh government's decision to allow the dairy at Leighton, near Welshpool.

It could take 12 months before the review takes place.

Farmer Fraser Jones said he was being "victimised".

In October, Planning Minister Carl Sargeant decided the proposed dairy at Lower Leighton Farm next to a school should be allowed to proceed despite a public inquiry inspector recommending refusal.

Mr Sargeant said the economic benefits outweighed other considerations.

'Battle'

Simon Pope, WSPA UK Director for Campaigns and Communications confirmed it will be challenging Mr Sargeant's decision in the High Court later this year.

He added: "Our case challenges the decision-making process that led to the granting of the application and the implications we believe the building of the industrial dairy farm would hold for the future of dairy farming, not just in Wales, but throughout Britain.

Farm The dairy farm near Welshpool currently manages 300 cows

"This battle is not and never has been about one farmer.

"Farmers should continue to be championed as the custodians of our natural environment. As such, WSPA considers our actions to be in the public interest."

A public inquiry was held about the plans for the dairy in March 2013.

The inspector had recommended that the planning permission application be refused on the grounds it would conflict the area's unitary development plan.

But the minister later decided the dairy's economic benefits outweighed other considerations.

'Bullying and victimisation'

Start Quote

The public inquiry said there were no animal welfare issues involved with the dairy so I don't understand why the WSPA have done this.”

End Quote Fraser Jones Farmer

Mr Jones said he had been told by his barrister that it could take 12 months before the judicial review takes place.

"I think it is scandalous that the WSPA are trying to destroy me because I may not be able to carry on with my plans for another year," he added.

"The public inquiry said there were no animal welfare issues involved with the dairy so I don't understand why the WSPA have done this.

"I will fight on and won't give in to this bullying and victimisation."

People opposed to the scheme formed an action group called Campaign Against Leighton Farm expansion.

It raised £8,000 to employ a barrister to represent the group at the public inquiry in March.

They complained the dairy would be too close to their homes and the school and raised objections about noise, the smell, flies, pollution, increased traffic, the size of the development and its visual impact.

Campaigner Geoff Vine said the group was "delighted" the judicial review will be held.

"If this dairy goes ahead we will see a huge number developed in Wales in the future."

A Welsh government spokesman said: "Until the High court challenge to the Welsh minister's appeal decision on the Lower Leighton Farm case has been considered the Welsh government is not able to discuss the decision or any issues arising from it."

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