AN environmental group has launched a legal challenge over a Powys County Council (PCC) decision to grant planning permission that would see a chicken farm in the River Wye catchment area double in size.

In March the council’s planning committee voted in favour of approving an application by the Davies family to double the number of broiler chickens at Wernhalog Farm, Llanfaredd, near Builth Wells, from 90,000 to 180,000.

There were concerns expressed at the meeting that dirty water run-off from the site could pollute the River Wye, which is two kilometres from the farm.

Fish Legal has since begun a legal challenge. In a letter before action sent on March 24, Fish Legal set out the reasons why it believes the decision to grant planning permission is unlawful and should be quashed. In particular, it highlights a failure by the council to properly consider what will happen to tonnes of additional poultry manure that will be spread as digestate on land in the catchment.

Wales Farmer:  The application would see the chicken farm just outside Builth double in size from 90,000 to 180,000 birds The application would see the chicken farm just outside Builth double in size from 90,000 to 180,000 birds

Justin Neal, solicitor at Fish Legal, said: “The council has effectively said it doesn’t need to concern itself with what happens to the manure and other chicken waste that is transported off site from this development.

“Given that the intention is to spread it on fields next to a tributary of the Wye, they should have looked into the possible impacts on the river from pollution.

“Whilst we have some sympathy with farmers who want to diversify or increase their output, this has to be seen in the context of on-going ecological collapse of the River Wye, the continuing trend of placing the units in the Wye catchment, a failure of planners to properly consider pollution risks and the failure of NRW to regulate and provide sound advice to planners.”

A PCC spokesperson said in response to the legal challenge: “The council can confirm that it has received a letter from Fish Legal in relation to planning permission 21/1381/FUL, which it is considering and will respond to in due course.”

Fish Legal, previously known as the Anglers’ Conservation Association, was set up in 1948 to protect all inland and coastal waters in the UK from pollution and other environmental damage.


In a separate challenge, Fish Legal put Natural Resources Wales (NRW) on notice earlier this year under the Environmental Damage (Prevention and Remediation) (Wales) Regulations that poultry farms high up in the Wye catchment are causing environmental damage.

Currently, 60 per cent of the Wye and its catchment fails environmental targets for phosphates – a key pollutant that causes algal blooms on the river and adversely affects its ecology.

Ann Weedy, NRW operations manager, said: “Natural Resources Wales takes its responsibilities for ensuring water quality in our rivers very seriously.

“They are one of our most important natural resources but the pressures upon them cannot be underestimated.

“We’re fully committed to improving the condition of the Wye. The factors contributing to pollution issues in this catchment are complex with phosphates coming from a range of different sources.

“Developing a comprehensive evidence base on these issues is crucial. We have a regular water quality monitoring programme which we are currently reviewing to ensure we can identify where our resources and focus should be targeted. The contribution of citizen science to developing and informing this evidence base will support us in doing this.


“We are working hard to challenge the water industry to regulate their activities and how they manage wastewater. We will continue to challenge water companies to improve their performance, to ensure overflows are properly controlled and to take strong and appropriate enforcement action where necessary.

“We all have a role to play – public bodies, farmers, land managers, businesses, policy makers and householders – to consider how we live and the impact that has on river catchments. This means rethinking how we manage nutrients in agricultural land, how we treat wastewater and how we live our daily lives as well as how we can establish practical nature-based solutions such as river restoration programmes that can both improve water quality and habitat but also reduce nutrient inputs.

“NRW is doing everything we can within the resources and legal powers that we have at our disposal to improve water quality and to tackling all forms of pollution through consistent and clear regulation.”

The River Wye is a highly protected habitat by law. It is designated as a Special Area of Conservation because it supports species such as the river weed ranunculus, white clawed crayfish, sea lamprey, brook lamprey, twaite shad, Atlantic salmon and allis shad.