Local residents have formed a community group to fight the plans to use Gilestone Farm for the Green Man Festival’s expansion plans, believing information so far provided by both project organisers and the Welsh Government is being played down.

Stop Gilestone Farm Project says it is mounting a campaign to halt the festival’s plans to take over the farm, which was bought by the Welsh Government last year with £4.25m of public money. The group says the proposed activities at the farm threaten an important wildlife habitat, which is home to rare species.

The group is also objecting to the congestion and pollution which will be caused by thousands of additional vehicles coming to the area if the controversial project goes ahead.  

A stop Gilestone Farm project banner
Stop Gilestone Farm project banner's have appeared along the roadside. (Stop Gilestone Farm Project)

Residents say local roads will not be able to cope with the extra traffic linked to the businesses and large events the Green Man plans to run at the farm, citing past events in 2005 and 2008, where events held at Gilestone Farm were described as being 'disruptive' and full of disturbances. They are also concerned that while the Welsh Government has spoken about events, it is open to interpretation, with no clarification on whether or not the event space will be for 30 attendees, or 3,000.

Group member Atty Beor-Roberts said: “The Welsh Government bought the wrong farm and did so without consulting local people. Gilestone Farm is totally unsuitable for the large-scale activities which the Green Man says it wants to bring here.

“These plans are unsustainable and a serious threat to our way of life, and to protected wildlife on the farm. It is outrageous the Welsh Government has gone as far as it has with this project without properly consulting people in the area, and we are determined to take action to stop this damaging and wasteful project in its tracks.”

The companies behind the Green Man plan to set up a brewery, a bakery, and a baking school and hold a series of live events each attracting up to 3,000 people at the farm. 

The organisation claims this will generate £23 million for the local economy, suggesting it will establish a large commercial operation, which the Stop Gilestone Farm Project group says will be totally unsuitable for this small, rural location. The group is highlighting threats to biodiversity, and the history of flooding at the site which makes it an unsafe location for the kind of public events the Green Man organisation is planning.

The community group also says there are no guarantees the site will not be used in future for larger events linked to the Green Man music festival.

The Welsh Government has confirmed that there are no plans to bring the Green Man Festival to Gilestone Farm, saying "it is not logical to move the current festival six miles to an undeveloped site which would disrupt the economic stability of the region. In addition, Gilestone Farm is not large enough to accommodate the Green Man Festival."

Residents have responded to this previous claim, saying that while the current plan is a relief, they are not convinced it won't change. "It has been claimed that Gilestone Farm simply isn’t large enough to accommodate the festival but the footprint of the festival on Glanusk appears to be around 160 acres and the available level ground at Gilestone is around 193 acres – so it looks like it could move. The current contract with its present home at Glanusk expires soon, and even if that is renewed, could Gilestone end up being an overspill site for parking and camping?"

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Gilestone Farm Project highlighted a 'conflict of interests', and that there is local support, but those in favour are 'afraid' to speak out.

The spokesperson said: “While we understand that there are some concerns about some aspects of the Gilestone Farm project, we believe our plans will have significant local benefits including a positive impact on the local environment, the economy and on wider social issues.

“What concerns us most is the divisive nature of the objectors’ campaign. We know that local people who are supportive of our project are afraid to speak up publicly because of the fear of intimidation and bullying. Many will be unwilling to attend and speak at the proposed meeting on the 14th for just those reasons.  

“We also think there are questions to ask of the wealthy absentee landlords funding the campaign, notably Mr Atty Beor-Roberts. He does not live in the village and his primary interest appears to be protecting his inherited fishing and shooting rights. Mr Beor-Roberts also faces questions over a serious conflict of interest as he is a senior partner and a chairman of Knight Frank, the property company that handled the original sale of the farm to the Welsh Government. Questions need also to be asked of the Usk Valley Conservation Group, which also opposes our plans, and which appears to be a front for opposition to the proposals.”

Mr Beor-Roberts has denied involvement with Knight Frank, saying he has retired.

According to organisers of the Stop Gilestone Farm Project, a poll was put to Talybont-On-Usk residents in December 2022, conducted by the Usk Valley Conservation Group. The question put to residents was: "Do you support the staging of large scale (500 people or more) festivals / events at Gilestone Farm?" The results represented 38.3 per cent of residents, with 198 people voting no, 12 voting yes, and 7 returned slips with no vote.

A stop Gilestone Farm project banner in the local community
A stop Gilestone Farm project banner in the local community (Gilestone Farm Project Group)

A Welsh Government spokesperson said that the Welsh Government has responded to the claims made by the community group before, and have created an online FAQ profile. They are proposing that the site will be used for farming, a creative hub, new live experiences and gatherings, food and beverage, an opportunity to increase tourism, and weddings and other events, citing an established history of tourism and small-scale events at the site. The website page also states: "The plans do stipulate though that the sustainable principles of Green Man will also be incorporated into the agricultural activity on the site and assessments will be undertaken to ensure that all activities work in harmony with the environment and not damage the biodiversity of the site. As an example, the business plan sets out that all future farming activities will use best practices in managing excess phosphates leaching into the River Usk."

In June, Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for Economy wrote a written statement on the project itself. He also spoke in the Senedd in June, saying: "Mid Wales is a region of opportunity and potential. Recognised as being a great place to live and to work, offering an exceptional quality of life, it has a natural environment that supports agriculture and land-based industries, as well as an outstanding tourism offer. Mid Wales is also home to some world-class academic and research capability and industrial clusters, including advanced and high-value manufacturing.

"The mid-Wales regional economic framework, published in December 2021, was co-produced with partners and is based on evidence and agreement. It is aligned with our framework for regional investment and the wider economic mission. It sets out a shared vision around a common set of economic priorities for mid-Wales and a commitment to work with our key stakeholders within an approach that complements the strategic planning led by local authorities and the wider Growing Mid Wales partnership."

The Growing Mid Wales partnership have clarified that they are not involved or connected with Gilestone Farm or the Green Man Festival.

When asked about Gilestone Farm, Mr Gething said: "The Welsh Government has a proud record of working as a trusted partner with indigenous Welsh brands that share our ambitions for mid-Wales. I'm delighted that Green Man continues to play a pivotal role in promoting the region, with a hugely successful, quality and respected brand that is a true asset to Wales's cultural offer. I recently updated members on our engagement with the business regarding their proposals for business growth and diversification at the Gilestone Farm site; I will, of course, provide a further update in due course.

"I note that the company has shared publicly information about how its proposals align with the mid-Wales growth partnership. The partnership's vision document sets strategic growth priorities that include tourism, agriculture, food and drink, research and innovation, support for enterprise and skills and employment, which are clearly aligned to the proposed areas of activity set out by the business to date. The priorities in the partnership's vision document are focused on building on local economic strengths in a sustainable way to secure more jobs across a broader mix of sectors to help young people plan for their future.

"Llywydd, mid-Wales remains open for business. I want to assure investors looking at opportunities that work with our shared vision that the Welsh Government is a partner with ambition for a vibrant regional economy that supports thriving rural communities. The Welsh Government will continue to invest in mid-Wales as part of our ambitions for a fairer, greener economy across all parts of Wales."

Stop Gilestone Farm Project is holding a public meeting on Monday, August 14 at Henderson Hall in Talybont on Usk, with more events to follow. Details can be found on the group’s website