Claims that Powys County Council’s planning committee shows bias in favour of the farming sector have been rebutted by planning chiefs.
The accusation was made by Dr David Williams as he asked a follow-up question on chicken farms at a council meeting on Thursday, July 20.
Before the meeting Dr Williams had submitted a written question to the council asking what the public could do to stop planning permission being given to proposals for Intensive Poultry Unit’s (IPUs).
At present 13 planning applications for chicken farms throughout Powys have been paused as the Welsh Government mulls taking over the decision making process.
The question and answer by Liberal Democrat cabinet member for planning, Cllr Jake Berriman, were read out at the meeting and under the protocol a follow-up question is allowed.
Dr Williams said: “The make-up of the Planning Committee is biased quite heavily towards the farming lobby.
“It does not reflect the interests and wellbeing of the population of Powys as a whole.
“If the Welsh Government decided not to call in the 13 applications, will the council consider cumulative environmental impact or will it simply continue to see each planning application in isolation?”
He also wanted the council to assure the public that the Planning Committee would decide these applications “even with its farming bias” rather than being left to planning officers to decide.
Planning committee chairman, Cllr Karl Lewis was brought in to answer the accusation.
Conservative Cllr Lewis said: “There is no bias towards farming in any shape or form from my point of view.
“The committee is cross-party, and we all come from different walks of life.
“I have family members involved in the farming community, but I am not involved directly.
“We do have farmers on our committee, but I wouldn’t say they are overly biased towards the farming community when making decisions.”
He explained that councillors are expected to have an “open mind” when dealing with planning applications.
Cllr Lewis said that councillors receive information packs showing the evidence base for an application, and then hear arguments for and against schemes at committee before making a decision.
Cllr Berriman said: “Each application needs to be considered on its individual merits.
“We are already looking at the cumulative impacts of the spreading of chicken muck on land and the impact that is having on the rivers Wye and Usk catchments.
“We are committed to driving improvements to our rivers not only for their own sake but so we can permit residential developments to take place again across parts of Powys where it stopped.
He said that it wasn’t his “place” to advise on how to get a proposal stopped or approved, and pointed out there are planning consultants who can provide advice if “you wish to seek it.”
Cllr Berriman added that they do “look” to the Welsh Government to provide a framework on how to deal with this type of application.