“Globally” Significant Wildlife Will Be Impacted by Gilestone Farm Plans, Say Wildlife and Environment Experts

Over a hundred and fifty Powys residents took part in protests over the last week with a march and a public meeting to demand the Welsh government listens to their concerns about plans to use Gilestone Farm to expand the Green Man music festival’s activities.

The meeting at Henderson Hall in Talybont on Usk heard that local people had been “kept in the dark” about the plans. Residents also staged a Walk For Our Wild Side event in the village to highlight their fears for rare wildlife at Gilestone Farm if the Green Man’s proposals go ahead.

The events were organised by the Stop Gilestone Farm Project group, which says the Welsh government failed to consult or listen to the local community before its controversial decision to pay £4.25 million for the farm.

The meeting heard from wildlife experts – the county mammal and bird recorders – who described the potential impact on important species of birds and mammals that live along the River Usk, some of which are internationally significant, as well as red listed (at risk of extinction). They are likely to be disturbed if the project goes ahead and as one expert observed – “The more events, the more festivals, the more pollution.  If bad things happen to these animals – the world gets to know.”

Some of the bats and birds are unique to the area – not just in Wales but in global terms, including Lesser Horseshoe and Beckstein’s bats. The potential for smaller farming or commercial units was also queried, given its capacity to disrupt far more of the land than a single farming entity. Otters, hedgehogs, deer and eels are commonly sighted at present, but this would be far more unlikely if events or small commercial units were present.

The Stop Gilestone Farm Project group says the Green Man’s plans for the site – which include public events attended up to 3,000 people – are incompatible with such an important habitat.

The plans are expected to increase traffic, congestions and pollution on local roads, and some villagers are warning that the local community will not be able to cope with the high number of additional visitors. From toilet facilities to parking, the village is experiencing significant pressure already during summer months, and the residents fear the situation could become much, much worse.

The Green Man organisation says the scheme will generate £23 million, which critics say suggests a large commercial operation, or series of operations, which would be unsuitable for the site.

Another speaker stated his concerns for the village, expressing his fear that the lack of consultation was dividing the community, and the lack of information hampering effective engagement. As a local hill farmer, he commented on how much he had envied the ‘flat lands’ when working his slopes and that the site needed to remain a farm, as part of the local fabric of the village.

Residents also said they were concerned about public money being spent on the project when the NHS in Wales was overstretched, and patients face long waiting lists.

The Stop Gilestone Farm Project is asking the Welsh Government to stop, consult and listen before allowing the controversial plans to go any further.

Image: Congestion on roads during this year’s Green Man Festival on roads near Crickhowell. All rights reserved by original photographer and copyright owner.