Environmental permit next hurdle for Welsh farmers

Farmers in Wales who battled planners to create an anaerobic digesters on their farm are now seeking an environmental permit to run the operation.

The Jones family were given the go-ahead by a Welsh Assembly planning inspector to build the digester on their arable and beef unit after their application was refused by the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority.

Environment Agency Wales is now seeking the comments of local communities on their application for an Environmental Permit to operate the facility and its associated energy recovery operation at Great Porthamel Farm, near Talgarth. The consultation will close on Friday 2 September 2011.

Graham Hillier, area manager with the Environment Agency Wales, said the agency would be investigating what impact the proposals would have on the health of local people and the environment. “We will also be consulting with other organisations to make sure we have all the relevant information to help us reach a decision on whether or not to issue an Environmental Permit for the site,” he said.

Low returns from their farming enterprise encouraged the Jones family to initially diversify into taking a licenced waste product from a local abattoir.

They used this as a soil conditioner on their fields and it reduced their reliance on artificial fertiliser.

“We spread our cattle manure along with this plant tissue twice a year on our arable fields. There has been a significant improvement in the quality of our crops,” said Mrs Jones.

But the smell it created led to their application to build an anaerobic digester. They said it would enable the product to be injected into the ground, almost eliminating smells.