Gilestone Farm, Powys: Fears it will be used for mass tourist events
Green Man – who has been held at the nearby Glanusk Estate near Crickhowell since 2006 – is expected to stay put. 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 can be negotiable, perhaps linked to educational workshops in various areas of sustainability
projects, perhaps in collaboration 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 was attended by Brecon and Radnorshire MP 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 wake of news of Gilestone’s purchase.
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, however, had told the Senedd the importance of securing Green Man’s future at 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 venue totally against the wishes of the host community and in a designated UK national park where the stated aim of the government is
conserve and enhance natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage.
“Nothing Green Man does should endanger that. In fact, he must highlight 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, however, confirmed 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 businesses on the festival scene have 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 are 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.