GROWING concerns over the number of poultry units in Powys and their effect on the environment have led to calls for a moratorium in the county.

A sustainable food group recently protested in a Border town centre over nearby chicken farms as wildlife groups have also blamed pollution problems on the river Wye on manure run-off.

The socially distanced demonstration in Brookside Square, Knighton, was organised by the town’s sustainable food group, which was calling on the Welsh Government to stop further intensive poultry units being built.

The group opposes plans for two poultry buildings at the nearby Llanshay Farm, which has been in the pipeline since May 2019.

Camilla Saunders said the group was “concerned not only about an application from a Knighton farmer to build an intensive poultry unit at Llanshay, but also the cumulative detrimental effects of the roughly eight million chickens that are being reared in intenstive poultry units (IPUs) at any one moment in Powys”.

The protest on September 3 aimed to highlight the group’s environment concerns, including phosphate levels. Recent figures revealed almost five times as many applications for chicken farms were submitted in Powys than across the rest of Wales in the last three years.

As of August 14, between April 1, 2017, and April 1, 2020, Powys received 96 applications, of which 75 were approved, three refused and 18 still in the process of being decided or are “active”.

Herefordshire and Shropshire received a combined total of 35 applications, of which 20 were approved, three refused and 12 were still active.

Wildlife Trusts Wales have highlighted the problem of algal blooms in the Wye which made it resemble a ‘pea soup’. They say the most likely cause is manure from livestock units which is spread onto land and then runs into rivers.

The proportion of phosphate in the lower Wye coming from agriculture has doubled in the past six years, and the river is failing on permitted levels of phosphate under the EU habitats directive: “

The National Farmers’ Union of Cymru said Welsh farmers take their environmental responsibilities “very seriously.”

A spokesperson said: “The planning system for building poultry houses, and other agricultural buildings, is heavily regulated with farmers adhering to strict animal health and welfare, environmental and food safety standards. They are regularly checked and verified by government and their agencies, alongside independent assurance bodies.”