Gilestone Farm Stakeholder Meeting
17 March 2023
Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon
It was noted that there had been a number of instances where representatives of Green Man and elected local members had been individually targeted by opponents of the proposed scheme. It was also noted that this had become increasingly personal over the past number of months and it was agreed that such behaviour was not acceptable.
In conclusion, it was noted that this meeting had been called specifically with stakeholders who would play a formal role of the project should it progress. It was hoped that this meeting would seek to agree a way forward and to ensure that the locals are provided with accurate and timely information on the project.
It was confirmed that there was a current Farm Business Tenancy in place at Gilestone Farm until October 2023. It was noted that no decisions would be taken at this meeting on the future of the site and that a decision would be taken by Welsh Government Ministers. It is intended that advice will shortly be submitted to the Minister for Economy for a decision on the next stages of the process.
Several attendees noted the importance of a strong Communications Strategy to accurately communicate with the local community and to allow for open and honest discussion. This was unanimously agreed.
Presentation by Green Man
A presentation was made by representatives of Green Man summarising the main activities proposed for the site.
Questions and Discussion
The Community Council representative and the County Councillor noted the need for more information on how these plans would affect the community day to day. The plan needed to be placed in the context of the village and individual villagers, for example information provided on the potential increased traffic and noise. It was noted that this work would form part of the licensing assessment with the local authority and would be undertaken before relevant activities were allowed to proceed.
The County Councillor noted the current traffic issues in Talybont-on-Usk and highlighted the previous discussions around a car park for the village and the lack of pavement. The County Councillor felt strongly that these issues would need to be discussed and form part of a wider support package for the community from the relevant stakeholders if agreement for the lease of the site is reached.
It was queried whether a full environmental assessment would be undertaken before any activities proceeded. Representatives of Green Man confirmed that all necessary assessments would be undertaken prior to the commencement of any activities.
The Community Council representative observed that at the Green Man Festival, the attendees leave the site and travel into Crickhowell and noted that this could cause issues in the village. Representatives from Green Man noted that this is encouraged as the local business community in Crickhowell want the attendees to contribute to the local economy. It was noted that this can be tailored to individual projects and if the local community want attendees for the smaller scale events planned for Gilestone to remain on site, then this can be controlled.
The Leader of Powys County Council noted that the current challenges faced by the county were extremely serious. The demographics of the county had changed significantly towards an economically inactive demographic over a number of years and that change was accelerating. The level of challenges faced by local infrastructure such as the school system and the health system were huge and unfortunately getting worse. The Leader noted that it was imperative that proposals such as this were given due consideration in order to try and provide economic opportunities to ensure that the county was able to retain and maintain families and economic activity.
The official from Powys County Council noted that the local authority were in principle open to considering developments such as the one proposed here, subject to all the necessary detail being provided and properly considered. It was also noted that the local authority was not really in a position to formally engage on the project until a decision had been made by a Welsh Government Minister on the next stage of the process.
An official from Brecon Beacons National Park Authority agreed with the views of Powys County Council and the importance of giving due consideration to developments such as proposed. It was noted that Brecon Beacons National Park Authority would also be open to the production of a holistic plan which could properly consider this proposal with its significant opportunities within the wider place and public policy setting and which would coincide with the consideration of this proposal. This would need to be independently facilitated given the differing views within the community.
A further discussion was held around the potential for noise at the small scale events proposed for the site. Representatives of Green Man noted that an initial noise levels assessment had been undertaken by an external expert however more assessment would be needed on being granted access to the site. It would be intended that noise sensors would be placed all around the valley to live monitor the noise escaping from the site to ensure compliance.
More information was requested on the jobs proposed to be created. Representatives from Green Man noted that these would be attractive skilled jobs across a range of different areas within the Green Man brand and in addition, the proposed Creative Hub would also create jobs, promote entrepreneurship and offering business mentoring to emerging businesses.
Representatives from Green Man asked what they could do to work with the community to help aid their concerns. They noted that this proposal is an attempt to develop economic activity in an area of Wales that had traditionally been difficult to develop. It was noted that environmental issues were at the heart of everything that Green Man does and the last thing that they want to do is undertake any activity that will go against those core issues. It was noted by locally elected members that communication is key and the community deserves to know the detail of what is planned. Representatives of Green Man noted that they understand and are happy to provide that information however they also noted that there had been a major breakdown of trust with individuals being unfairly targeted in public.
The Chair noted that representatives of Green Man had been requesting a communications plan be agreed for the proposal for some time however Welsh Government had been unable to agree to this request until a decision had been taken by the Minister. It was unanimously agreed that a joint Communications Strategy should be devised if the Ministerial decision is made to proceed to formal lease negotiations. Creative Wales will contact all representatives to advise once the decision had been taken. It was agreed that this Communications Strategy would include community feedback.
Discussions were held about potential options to allow the local community to learn more about the proposals and provide their views. The representative from the Community Council and the County Councillor were asked to discuss this with the Community Council at their meeting of 20 March and provide feedback to Creative Wales officials on how this could be achieved.
It was agreed that a formal note of this meeting would be drafted by Creative Wales officials and shared with all attendees for accuracy before being finalised.
Giletsone Breifing Notes for Talybont Community Council,
20th March 2023
1. In February of this year, Ms Fiona Stewart registered a new business with Companies House called Cwningar Ltd, which is listed as being in the business of "Buying and selling of own real estate," and "Other letting and operating of own or leased real estate."
Its registered address is the same as that of Green Man Festival Limited.
Welsh Government documents show that Cwningar Ltd is the business entity which was set up for the purposes of managing Gilestone Farm.
Is this correct?
If this is correct will Cwnigar Ltd be sub-letting/leasing/renting Gilestone Farm to the Fiona Stewart’s Greenman companies?
If Cwnigar Ltd are leasing Gilestone Farm to the Greenman companies what will happen to this lease if the Greenman companies are sold? Will the lease be terminated as the whole reason for purchasing Gilestone Farm was to secure a permanent site for Greenman and not a festival site for Cwnigar Ltd?
2. Could you confirm that Gilestone Farm will not ever be used as an extension to the Green Man Festival as stated by Mr Mark Isherwood MS in his audit of The Welsh Government’s Purchase of Gilestone Farm
‘the property acquisition was being progressed to support future expansion of the Green Man Festival.. because the current festival is constrained by the lack of available land to accommodate the number of visitors that could be attracted to the event. In our view, these statements suggested that increasing the festival’s visitor capacity was the primary objective’
3. Will there be a clause in the lease which guarantees that there will be no more than three events a year and it will be capped at no more than 3000 per event as has been previously stated by WG and Fiona Stewart.
4. WG have already informed Talybont Community Council about plans for a brewery and bakery. It there plans for a shop and café/restaurant on the site.
5. When will the consultation with the WG, Fiona Stewart and the local residents from Talybont-on-Usk community take place, as promised in the meeting on the 17th November 2022.
These are questions for the meeting at Y Gaer
1. We would suggest the Strategic Business Case, Programme Brief or Outline Business Case, Justification and Vision are not corporately sensitive and ask when these may be shared with the Community Council?
2. What are the desired outcomes from the investment at Gilestone Farm, and how will these be realised over 3, 5 and 10 years? When will benefits be realised and by whom? How will dis-benefits or adverse impacts be mitigated and managed through the investment programme?
3. What are the governance arrangements for the management of public money at Gilestone Farm, and to protect the asset, environment and our community? Will WG be willing to share the Risk Register in respect of this?
4. When will WG be sharing the Communications Plan?
5. How will the benefits of the investment by WG be tracked and measured?
6. What is defined within the Target Operating Model? What does the future look like, how is it defined and how is success measured?
The above questions all relate to standard management ahead of a Business Case being submitted. A Business Case would detail funding, costs project detail and management arrangements. As we don't know what is planned, its difficult to raise specific questions.
Gerwyn Evans of the Welsh Government has arranged a meeting regarding Gilestone Farm on Friday 17th of March at 11am in Agair, Brecon. This meeting is strictly under invitation and Cllr Simon Baldwin has been invited to represent the Community Council. Other attendees will be Anita Cartwright as our County Councilor, Fiona Stewart from Greenman, and representatives from BBNP and Powys CC.
Cllr Baldwin requested councilors to forward questions they wish to be raised at the meeting prior to his attendance.
In a letter to the Public Accounts and Public Administration Committee of the Senedd, Mr Crompton noted that the Welsh government had been in discussion with Green Man about potential sites for some time but he said "with more time the Welsh government could have undertaken greater due diligence before making any decision".
"By buying Gilestone Farm when it did, the Welsh government accepted an avoidable financial risk, albeit one which officials have emphasised to us was, in their view, low and manageable," he says.
"And, in our view, if the Welsh government had concluded its consideration of Green Man's plans before taking any decision about buying or not buying the farm, the Welsh government's external communication of its actions could also then have been clearer."
He notes that the purchase was supported by an independent professional valuation but that "the Welsh government has accepted financial risks that would not have arisen if it had delayed a final purchase decision until after its full consideration of Green Man's plans, and the suitability of Gilestone Farm for intended future uses, had been concluded".
The Welsh government said it welcomed the review.
"It is clear from the review that the acquisition of Gilestone Farm followed the appropriate processes, was value for money and is clearly aligned to our economic ambitions," the spokesperson said.
"Due diligence work continues on Green Man's detailed and comprehensive business plan which will conclude in the coming weeks.
"No final decision on the future of Gilestone Farm will be made until the due diligence process is complete."
Gilestone Farm –
Matters arising from the validation of the UVCG survey by Cllr Burdon, Advice from OVW and the notice agreed by all Councillors which was posted on the Community Councils Facebook page and website
The Clerk was asked by the chair to explain the item.
Cllr. Burdon confirmed that the community poll organised by UVCG was verified by himself.
Following this verification, the clerk received inquiries regarding the independence of the Community Council in relation to this matter.
These inquiries were being made due to the fact the UVCG had stated on their website that the poll had been verified by the Acting Chair of the Community Council, Cllr Burdon.
Cllr. Burdon has explained that the verification was carried out in a personal capacity only and not in his capacity as a member of the council. The Community Council at no time had given Cllr. Burdon the authority to undertake this action on behalf of the Community Council.
Following his explanation, advice was sought from OVW, who advised that a retraction needed to be issued confirming that Cllr Burdon had carried out this verification, not as a member of the council, but in his own personal capacity as a private individual.
After this discussion had taken place, Councillor Moorman asked what the council could do to address the fact that the UVCG had also previously tried to indicate that they were working with the Community Council.
In order to clarify the fact that Council is not and has never been working with the UVCG against the Green Man at any point , either in the past or at present, a proposal was put forward seconded and unanimously agreed, to issue a public statement that “the Usk Valley Conservation Group keeps making statements that are not true, regarding the Community Council. The Clerk said that the Community Council had not yet taken a decision concerning its position relating to the Green Man, as it is still waiting for the business plan to be published and circulated.
Only following the publication and review of this document by the Council will they then make an informed decision on their position.
In addition, it was suggested that the statement should indicate that any persons or any organisations currently trying to suggest that they are working with the Council against the Green Man are in fact incorrect.
The draft statement to be circulated to all Councillors for agreement prior to it being published on the Community Council Website and Facebook page.
The Community Council awaits a date to meet with Welsh Government to discuss the business plan.
Message from Talybont-on-Usk Community Council
With regards to the publication of the results of the UVCG Poll on the UVCG website, where it was reported:-
“The poll has been verified by the acting head of the Talybont Community Council, Councillor Craig Burdon with review of the process and responses. Councillor Burdon has confirmed the result is an accurate representation of the returns.”
The Community Council wants it made clear that the Community Council has no involvement with the UVCG, and that no Community Councillor is a member of UVCG.
Councillor Craig Burdon role in verifying the poll was carried out in a personal capacity and as a member of the public. At no time did the Community Council provide him with the authority to undertake this role on its behalf.
Talybont-on-Usk Community Council was not involved in conducting the poll, however the Community Council will continue to listen to residents' views and represent all residents' perspectives and attitudes, when more details are known, concerning Welsh Governments’ purchase of Gilestone Farm.
The UVCG pole results were published as such:
“Please Note; The poll has been verified by the acting head of the Talybont community council, Councillor Craig Burdon with review of the process and responses. Councillor Burdon has confirmed the results is an acute representation of the returns.”’
Subsequently the Council was contacted by the Welsh Government asking is we had changed our position. The media was attempting to interview the Clerk.