A couple have expressed their frustration that agricultural plans they have put forward to help address climate and pollution issues are being recommended for refusal by Pembrokeshire Coast National Park planning officers - despite the Authority recently highlighting how it is responding to the challenges posed by climate change.
However, couple Jim Reynolds and Lucy Lant of Penally told the Observer this month that they have been left frustrated after their application to turn their farm into a ‘One Planet Development’ - which would help towards negating the effects of climate change - was recommended for refusal (subject to a site visit) by PCNPA’s planning case officer.
The couple are seeking planning permission for a single temporary dwelling in the form of a cabin which fits within the definition of a caravan and a number of outbuildings under the principles of One Planet Development (OPD).
The One Planet Development scheme, is a policy that is supported by the Welsh Government, which allows people to live on agricultural land, provided they are completely self-sufficient in terms of the resources that are used.
To be assessed as OPDs applicants are expected to be able to meet 65 per cent of their basic food needs from their land, either by producing all of the 65 per cent from the land, or by producing no less than 30 per cent from their land and the remaining 35 per cent using income derived from the sale/barter of produce grown and reared on their site.
Mr. Reynolds and Ms. Lant who own Lilly Pond Farm, a 28 acre working horse farm growing organic vegetables on the Ridgeway, have nearly 50 years of combined experience in traditional farming methods.
The couple say they have spent over £6,000 just in administration costs to put forward the proposals and have invested all their lifesavings.
Mr. Reynolds, said: “This is a small organic farm that we are trying to set up, we hope to developed it as a traditional working farm.
“We are hoping to start a small farm shop to sell produce to the local community.
“It’s a project where we want to share and develop the skills of traditional farming and to invite people to have work experience and to try and set up a precedence.
“We want to try and develop it as a blueprint so people can come and share with what we are doing here as a project to try and open up opportunities for a way forward where we can move to a more wholesome healthy way of living.
“We feel very strongly that we need to address climate issues and pollution issues which are damaging our planet - this a project that is trying to address some of those issues,” he continued.
The couple say they have had a number of problems flagged up with their application - even down to the colour of the tiles for their new barn!
“We had to go ahead and start building a barn in order to stable and give protection to the horses, we decided to put a clay tiled roof on thinking this would be an attractive feature in the countryside,” continued Mr. Reynolds.
“At the PCNPA?planning meeting that we went to (held on Decmeber 4), the planning officer made a remark that the colour of the roof tiles were out of place in this environment and she would have preferred us to have put corrugated sheeting on the buildings which we find ugly and unattractive and not environmentally friendly.
“So we are bit perplexed at where these people are coming from and what they’re seeing and where they’re coming from.”
Mr. Reynolds suggested that he had been let down by people people in ‘positions of responsibility’.
No objections have been received in regard to the application apart from that from Penally Community Council.
“When we first came to Pembrokeshire, we thought it (Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority) was an open minded progressive council that supported these types of enterprises,” he explained.
“We feel the majority of the planning committee - not all - but the majority are not really in favour of these enterprises and they seem to be blocking or stopping where they can people like us who want to have a go at creating something that is good and wholesome for the future.
“We found it very undermining and discouraging and we would look to find out why the people in positions of responsibility aren’t looking at the evidence that has been put forward from experts such as Sir David Attenborough.
“We’re bewildered why we feel that we are having so much objection and negative opinions from PCNPA who at the meeting were tutting when our application was being read out.
“Obstacle after obstacle has been put in our way and discouraging us from actually trying to create a wholesome construction which the local community would benefit from where we produce basic healthy food that we want to share with the local community and have a place where people can come and enjoy the experience and hopefully encourage the next generation to get involved in land based activity.
“Why on earth are we having these obstacles? We had pre-application advice 12 months before we did anything and we thought that there was some favourable support for what we were doing.
“I think the lack of support is broad. People are frightened of change they can’t deal with that.
“Sadly life is moving and we need to start changing because industrialised urban societies are destructive to our environment and we need this environment for the benefit of the lives of the next generation.
Should the proposal be rejected outright by PCNPA’s Development Management Committee, the couple say they won’t give up and will appeal to the Welsh Office.
“If our application is refused, we aren’t prepared to give up, this is a serious issue for us and we have invested all our life savings for this project,” remarked Mr. Reynolds.
“If it all goes pear shaped we will appeal to the Welsh Office and see if we can get someone who has an understanding in dealing with this type of project.
“We’re optimistic that we will get support and hopefully the wider community will give us some support, recognise what we are saying and what we are trying to do.
Lucy Lant, added: “We feel that Lilly Pond Farm is in-keeping with the policy of sustainable rural development put set sout by the Welsh Government and that is why we are so perplexed that the planning authorities seem to be splitting hairs over what we’re doing because the broader project is very much in line with everything they’re saying.”
In recommending refusal for the appllicatio, PCNPA’s planning officer dealing with the case stated: “The application does not demonstrate an adequate biodiversity baseline for monitoring.
“The applicants have failed to submit an adequate arboricultural and landscaping plans.
“The application fails to demonstrate an adequate zero carbon proposal, an incomplete transport assessment, and fails to provide an effective exit strategy.
“As such, the development cannot be considered to comply with the principles of One Planet Development.”
“The development, if permitted, would create a new unit of residential accommodation in the open countryside without adequate justification.”