A Welsh dairy farmer’s £300,000 fight to create a 1,000-cow dairy has ended with the Welsh government giving him permission to go ahead with the development.
Fraser Jones had invested six years and £300,000 in pursuing his ambition to build the dairy on his Powys farm.
On Thursday (31 October), that persistence paid off when Welsh government planning minister Carl Sargeant granted permission for the development at Leighton, near Welshpool, because of the economic benefits it will bring.
Once the dairy is up and running, it will be staffed by 12 full-time workers and there will be up to four part-time jobs too.
Mr Jones said he would start work on the construction at Lower Leighton Farm once the conditions of the consent had been clarified.
“There are lots of conditions to sort out with the local authority so I am not 100% sure when I am going to start. I will have a meeting with the local authority and my lawyers are going through the consent,” he said.
His plan had suffered a major blow exactly a year ago when Powys County Council’s planning committee refused the application.
A public inquiry was then held last March and the inspector recommended the plan should be refused, citing the impact the smell and noise would have on local residents and children at the primary school and animal welfare concerns.
In his ruling this week, Mr Sargeant admitted that the proposed development had social and environmental implications but that these were outweighed by economic benefits.
Mr Jones said the decision signalled the Welsh government’s confidence in the Welsh dairy industry. “The Welsh ministers made a big statement in granting this application. In so doing they have shown their support for Welsh dairying; they want to see a viable future for the industry. I am extremely grateful that they could see that.”
The six-year wrangle has been costly but Mr Jones said he was confident that he could recoup this outlay.
“It has cost me £300,000 and if I had not got planning permission it would have been completely lost. But I can now work that cost into the project and my confidence in dairying is such that I know I will get that money back through milk production.”
He urged other farmers in similar positions to persevere. “It has been a very worrying time and it has taken six years to get to this point but I never gave up hope. There have been lots of highs and lows but perseverance has been key in this instance.
“I am extremely passionate about dairying, it is what I love, and this project will enable my future to be secure in the industry and will allow me to make the most of the opportunities that lie ahead with increased demand for milk.”
Mr Jones acknowledged that there would be people who had objected who would be disappointed with the decision but he believed the dairy would be a development that the local community would be proud of. “I am sure that as a community we can come together and work together,” he said.
The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) said the approval called into question the Welsh government’s commitment to promoting sustainable development.
Simon Pope, WSPA UK campaigns and communications director, said the organisation was “incredulous” that permission had been granted.
“Having taken part in the inquiry alongside concerned residents, we worry about the message this sends: if you can provide a handful of jobs, then it seems environmental, animal welfare and economic common sense can be ignored,” he said.