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Farmers’ TikTok viral milkshake machines stir up trouble for neighbours

The entrance to Castle Farm, advertising its milk vending machine, in June 2023 (Pic: Google)

FARMERS outside Newport have fallen foul of their neighbours after their milkshake vending machine went viral on social media and attracted droves of thirsty fans.

Castle Farm, in Bishton, launched the venture in 2022, drawing “significant interest” online.

Neighbours have subsequently complained about customers creating noise and antisocial behaviour when they visit the vending machines, and Newport City Council has alleged the operation was set up without planning permission.

Castle Farm disputes the need for planning consent and said the machines had been crucial to diversifying their business during tough times.

The council had already attempted to enforce planning permission on the site, but a Welsh Government inspector quashed that bid after the farmers appealed.

At a council planning committee meeting on Wednesday (April 3), members agreed to pursue another avenue of enforcement by limiting the opening hours of the vending machines, which are located in an adapted shipping container on the farmland.

At the meeting, Joanne Davidson, the council’s east area development manager, said the “expansive” operation of the vending machines near private residences was “not appropriate”.

Activity such as “convoys” of customers arriving “late into the evening” had caused “demonstrable harm” to the area’s “amenity and rural character”, she added.

The popularity of the machines had led to an “intensification of use of the track and the farmyard by vehicles and customers otherwise unassociated with the farm operations”, Ms Davidson said, adding that neighbours had a “right to expect peace, quiet and privacy”.

Jack Hooper, who has lived in one of the converted barns at Castle Farm for 20 years, told the committee he had been “directly impacted” by “constant antisocial behaviour” including from “youngsters in cars all hours of the day and night”, with “engines running and music blaring”.

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“We simply cannot enjoy our garden space”, Mr Hooper said, telling the committee customers were also making “constant TikTok and other social media postings”.

The vending machines would be “better placed in towns and villages” at sites with strict closing times, he added.

Sarah Rickard, from Castle Farm, described her business as a “small, family working farm” which had always produced milk.

She challenged the council’s claims that the “auxiliary” shipping container needed planning permission, as well as its grounds for pursuing enforcement.

Many farms across Wales were starting similar ventures to sell milk, Ms Rickard added, because they “provide much-needed diversification and income at a time when the Welsh Government is telling farmers to diversify and be more sustainable”.

Castle Farm had proposed relocating the machines and suggested slightly more generous opening hours than those the council had put forward, she said.

“Milk and milk products are no different from other farm products which we can sell,” Ms Rickard told the committee, but acknowledged the vending machines had been “busy” during lockdown.

Ms Davidson, however, said the hours the council proposed were “the most suitable” – and they went on to be approved unanimously by the committee.

Cllr John Reynolds, a committee member, told colleagues “diversification of the farm is something we all want to encourage”, but “limiting the [opening] hours makes sense”.