A farmer based near Hay-on-Wye has expressed his dismay at having to undo work to build a dairy unit at his farm after an unsuccessful appeal, writes Gavin McEwan.

Tom Pugh, of Sheepcote Farm, which lies in a bend of the river Wye by the village of Clifford, near Hay-on-Wye, said he had spent three years working with ecologists, biologists, structural engineers, drainage engineers and landscape architects “to make the application a success”.

“They concluded that building the infrastructure for a dairy enterprise would only bring benefit to the surrounding area and the nearby river Wye,” he said.

Herefordshire Council officials said in its submission to the appeal that it was told of unauthorised ground works at the farm in December 2018, and that enforcement officers made a site visit in January 2019.

Mr Pugh’s planning application the following month proposed a 0.3-hectare dairy unit made up of a cattle cubicle, milking parlour, feed and milk silos, and also sought permission for a slurry lagoon which had already been built.

The council eventually refused this bid in October last year, citing the impact of the unit on the landscape, the farm’s susceptibility to flooding, and the risk of the works leading to pollution into the nearby river Wye.

It then served an enforcement notice on Mr Pugh in January, obliging him to return the whole area to grass within a year.

This would mean removing the “significant amounts of gravel” extracted on the farm that had been used to raise the site profile, as well as concrete used for the building foundations and slurry chambers.

Mr Pugh appealed against both the permission refusal and the enforcement. Following a hearing in October and site visit on 2 November, planning inspector Peter Willows has now rejected both.

He found “no harm” from the development to the setting of the listed farmhouse, and conceded that “there are likely to be some benefits arising from the development”.

But this was outweighed by the fact that a “sequential test”, mandated in government planning policy, had not been properly applied to determine whether the site was the least flood-prone of all options on the farm.

He said two fields to the south-west of the farm were “both clearly preferable in terms of flood risk to the appeal site, since neither falls within zone 3 (most liable to flood)”.

Mr Pugh challenged this, saying: “We understand the farm is in a vulnerable position for flooding, but the building site in question did not flood in the highest flood ever recorded, in February 2020.”

He added: “We’re only looking to improve our farming with state-of-the-art facilities for slurry and effluent handling, to create a safer workplace and to benefit the local environment.”