A milk vending facility is underway at a farm owned by a Carmarthenshire County Councillor near Talyclun in Hendy. The work has not gone down well with some local residents.
Cllr Gareth Beynon Thomas is a member of the planning committee and some local residents claim he has been ‘exploiting’ that position, ‘breaching planning rules’ and operating with ‘conflicts of interest’ as a councillor. Although Cllr Beynon owns the farm upon which, the work is taking place, there is nothing to suggest the milk vending venture is his.
In response Cllr Beynon Thomas said: “The article suggests that I have been “exploiting my position, breaching planning rules, and operating with conflicts of interest as a councillor”. I believe I ought to be entitled to a right of reply for this unfounded claim. For the record, we have been discussing this project with the Carmarthen County Council planning officers from the outset. There is no need for planning for the removal of a small length of hedge for the opening of a gate-way onto an unclassified road.”
Posts on a Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/LlaethBeynonDairy read:
“Whilst the rest of the world has been in lockdown, we have been busy here at Fferm Goitre Fach.
“I am pleased to announce that Llaeth Beynon Dairy will be launching in September 2020.
“Milk from our pedigree Holsteins herd will be pasteurised on a daily basis and will be sold at a nearby vending machine.
“I will keep you updated on our progress and provide you with an insight to life on our farm.”
Posts date back to the end of June.
Now residents and the MP for Llanelli Nia Griffith have poured scorn on the development and are questioning whether or not the councillor, who owns the farm or whoever is responsible for the milk vending venture had planning permission for this venture.
Nia Griffith MP said: “Worried residents in Talyclun, Hendy contacted me a few weeks ago when it was announced on facebook the intention to open a milk vending facility just off the main A4138 near the Hendy motorway junction in September. I have just been up there and seen where they have ripped up a hedge, which residents tell me is in preparation for this enterprise.”
In response to the claim of a damaged car, Cllr Beynon Thomas said: “No such damage was done and no contact has been made by any car owner.”
Nia Griffith continued: “It is outrageous that planning permission has not yet been applied for, for a venture that appears to have already started. This means no formal notification of local residents and no chance for them to object. They seem to think they are above the law. They need to go through the statutory procedures so proper consideration can be given to issues like the volume of traffic at this junction.
We searched Carmarthenshire County Council’s planning portal as far back as the beginning of July when plans were posted on Facebook. No application appears on any subsequent planning list.
One local resident who did not wish to be named claims that there are a number of breech of powers, conflicts of interests which need to be brought in to account.
They said: “How can a community councillor apply for and be awarded a £40,000 grant when the farm in the neighbouring village was not able to, for exactly the same needs (to set up a milk stall?
Cllr Beynon responded saying:“No grant whatsoever has been received linked to this venture and certainly did not compete with a farm in a neighbouring village.”
The resident continued: “Their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/LlaethBeynonDairy/ ) clearly states several times that this milk vending outfit is to be situated beside the main road. This is literally miles away from their farmyard so I know it will need to go through formal planning, and environmental health and food standards agency and highways agency as it is being positioned on the busy A4138. The A4138 is already under inspection by the Welsh Government due to the heavy congestion already, this will only impact and make things worse.
Cllr Beynon Thomas clarified his position saying: “As the crow flies, the land is approximately one mile from the farm yard. The majority of the cattle winter feed comes from these fields. Cattle were regularly seen grazing these fields until threats were received to ‘shoot livestock on the fields’. Police were involved with this incidence. These fields are very much an integral and long established part of Goitre Fach farm.”
The resident added: “I find it appalling that one of the above agencies have not received any applications or notices for this milk vending outfit and also, this field in question is listed as green belt land on your own website (as previously mentioned in LDP 2012-2014) so again, how is it legal to change use of field from fully agricultural or commercial.
“A “normal” resident would not be allowed to get away with this so how can a community councillor, especially one who is listed as being on the Carmarthenshire council Planning Committee – this is very clearly a conflict of interest and breech of authority and power and should no way be allowed and someone should be accountable!!!”
We have seen an email from Carmarthenshire County Council which states that no planning application has been submitted in relation to the milk vending machine.
The council also confirmed that emails have been received from Cllr Gary Jones querying if a planning application had been submitted and any requirement for a planning application for the milk vending machine.
Cllr Beynon Thomas said: “This vending machine is not positioned on the ”busy A4138” as suggested, but on an unclassified dead-end road. There is ample turning points along the road.
“We have been in discussion with a county employee, from the food standard agency, and the next step is to arrange an inspection date.
“The suggestion that a change of field use from agricultural to commercial is also untrue. The farms main enterprise is dairy, and selling milk is our main income. The land is still being used to produce and sell milk. It is my understanding that the Welsh Government is supportive of such farm-gate local sales; it is a source of diversification, while reducing food miles, uses re-usable glass bottles to help the environment as well as supporting the youth in Agriculture.”