Fears the £4million Powys Farm could be used for mass tourism events
DEFIANT villagers say they oppose the Welsh government’s multi-million pound purchase of a Powys farm – fearing it will be developed for mass tourism events such as festivals.
The Welsh Government announced last month that it had paid £4.25million for Gilestone Farm, just outside Talybont-on-Usk, and that organizers of the popular Green Man Festival would pay for it daily management.
Green Man – who has been held at the nearby Glanusk Estate near Crickhowell since 2006 – is expected to remain in place. But local residents of Talybont, which is less than 10 miles down the road, fear the purchase will have a negative impact on the countryside.
At a public meeting held in the village last week, attended by local politicians, all of Gilestone’s proposals involving the promotion of mass events were unanimously rejected.
Phil Darbyshire, who chaired the meeting at Henderson Hall, said: “I hope we can reach a compromise with the Green Man Festival.
“Ultimately, their brand of green credentials and sustainability is very much in line with the ethos of the village.
“However, I don’t think the community will compromise on the issue of mass events. Small events of up to 500 people may be negotiable, perhaps linked to educational workshops in various sustainability projects, perhaps in conjunction with a university department. I think that would find approval.
“But any development must be constrained by a legal framework and properly controlled – we have in the past experienced poor planning and licensing oversight from local authorities.”
The meeting on Thursday June 2 brought together MP for Brecon and Radnorshire Fay Jones and MS James Evans.
The meeting heard that there had been no consultation with the local community from the Welsh Government and concerns were raised that the purchase agreement and the Government’s involvement with Green Man appear to have escaped public scrutiny – neither the government nor festival bosses would comment in the immediate wake of news of Gilestone’s purchase.
However, the Welsh Government confirmed this week that the prestigious and popular event will not leave its current home of Glanusk.
“The Welsh Government has purchased the site to support the growth ambitions of the Green Man Festival,” a Welsh Government spokesperson said.
“Green Man is one of five major independent festivals still running in the UK and an annual event that makes a significant contribution to the economy of Wales. We want to harness the festival’s potential additional positive contribution to local businesses, the community and the Welsh economy and ensure that the festival continues to have a permanent home in Wales.
“We will shortly receive a full business plan for the site which will set out the activities to be undertaken throughout the year and outline how the land will continue to be farmed. This will be subject to normal and robust due diligence processes.
“The existing Green Man Festival does not leave the Glanusk estate and will continue there as it has for the past 20 years.”
MP Ms Jones said she had ‘serious concerns’ about the purchase. “I have no doubt Green Man will succeed in this endeavor – he’s been running a top notch festival in Crickhowell for almost 20 years,” she said.
“But it appears the Welsh Government has chosen to decommission a productive farm and hand it over to the events industry without much transparency or competition. I think that says a lot about the Welsh Government’s vision for agriculture.
Economy Minister Vaughan Gething previously told the Senedd the importance of securing Green Man’s future in Powys. “As far as the amount we have invested in this is concerned with securing the longer term future of Green Man in Wales, and I think we have done the right thing in doing so. “said Mr Gething when questioned. on the sale of Gilestone by Mr. Evans.
Another resident said at last Thursday’s meeting that he was concerned that hosting Green Man, or any other proposed event, would damage the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Gilestone site, located inside the Brecon Beacons National Park.
“The farm is located in a highly sensitive wildlife area and the Usk River which borders the farm is a special conservation area,” the resident said.
“We are in a national park where landscape and nature conservation is a top priority.
“We have no objection to Green Man or festivals in general. The objection is to the imposition of mass tourism events such as festivals in an unsuitable location totally against the wishes of the host community and in a designated UK national park where the stated aim of the government is to conserve and enhance enhance natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage.
“Nothing Green Man does should jeopardize that. In fact, he must emphasize it.
After a comment and question session, those present were asked to vote on whether festivals and other similar mass tourist events (say, over 500 people) should be allowed to take place at Gilestone Farm – the vote was was greeted with an overwhelming “No”.
The Green Man Festival is one of the UK’s Big Five Independent Festivals and the idea behind the Welsh Government’s purchase of Gilestone is to secure its future in Wales, and more importantly Powys.
Mr Gething said there had been interest in buying the festival brand and he suggested Green Man could migrate to another part of the country, or even leave Wales altogether.
He told the Senedd: ‘The overall ambition is to ensure that one of the most important economic ventures in the festival scene has a permanent home in Wales.’
He confirmed the purchase and the price paid, when questioned by Mr Evans, and said he would be happy to brief members further on the use of the land.
He also confirmed talks were underway with the Green Man Festival about the possibility of renting the farm, although the Welsh government has yet to see a business plan. He declined to be fired at how he would use the site but said the purchase was to secure the future of the festival.
He said the business plan would determine the future use of the site, which also has a caravan park – with BBC Wales claims the farm could employ 174 people, focusing on sustainable farming , local food and climate change.
Green Man Festival was founded by Jo Bartlett and Danny Hagan as a 300-person day-long event at Craig-y-Nos Castle, near Brecon, in 2003. It moved to Baskerville Hall, outside Hay-on-Wye, for a two day event in 2004, and by 2005 it had become a three day event, with 3,000 people attending.
It moved to the Glanusk site in 2006, with organizers marking the festival’s 20th anniversary this year. Last year, 25,000 people took part.