PLANS for a north Pembrokeshire organic food producer to expand its business could be scuppered by concerns about the impact it would have on an ancient monument associated with a Celtic saint.
The application, by Cilgerran-based Southern Roots Organics, made through agent Llyr Evans Planning Ltd, seeks permission for three polytunnels for agricultural use at land near Penrallt, Felindre Farchog.
The application for one single-sized and one double-sized polytunnel would increase the number on site from an existing five to support the growing business, but concerns have been raised on the impact on the Scheduled Ancient Monument of Carningli, some three kilometres away.
Rocky summited Carningli features the remains of one of the largest hillforts in west Wales, generally dated to the Iron Age, and is associated with the Celtic saint Brynach, said to have talked with animals and birds.
The plans, to be heard at the January 31 meeting of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park’s development management committee, are recommended for refusal despite no objections from local community council Nevern.
The additional floor area created by the proposed polytunnels would be 460m², an increase in floor area of over 50 per cent.
A report for planners states: “Whilst the site is well screened from the public highway running to the south of the site (B4582), the site is visible from the wider landscape.
“An objection has been received from the authority’s policy team based upon the cumulative impact that the existing five and additional three polytunnels would have on this part of the Newport and Carningli Special Historic Landscape and the Scheduled Ancient Monument (Carningli).
“Based upon this, a recommendation to refuse permission is made.”
Three letters raised concerns about the proposal, raising concerns on the existing impact on views from Carningli “and various other viewpoints in this otherwise beautiful part of north Pembrokeshire”.
A fear it would lead to “a proliferation of polycarbonate farms in the National Park” was also raised.
The application has seen 12 letters of support of the proposal, praising the quality of Southern Roots Organics’ operation in growing local and sustainable food.
Comments included: “Southern Roots Organics are operating a well-run successful business of the kind which meets Welsh Government’s strategic aims for land use and climate objectives,” and “The business offers a huge number of positives for our area such as shortening supply chains, creating rural employment, supporting existing businesses, developing local resilience and farming in a truly sustainable way which works with nature and not against it”.
Adam Payne of Southern Roots Organics, in a letter submitted with the application says the business supplies around 20 well-known restaurants, cafes, farm shops, caterers and a local organic wholesaler in the Fishguard -Cardigan-Crymych area, and more recently started supplying a national wholesaler, and has “developed a reputation for reliable high-quality fresh produce,” with demand continuing to rise.
“We receive frequent requests for a box scheme for local households and there is clearly more demand locally. In 2024 we plan to expand by developing a box scheme to supply local households and consolidating our existing markets. Polytunnel space has become a limiting factor to our development.”
The national park, in promotional literature on walks in the area, has described the importance of Carningli on the landscape: “One of the most striking hills in Pembrokeshire, rocky Carningli is a brooding presence over the town of Newport.
“When the sun is setting, Carningli’s profile against the red sky makes the hill look rather like the volcano it once was. Its hard dolerite rock is the solid core of cooled magma that was once the volcano’s heart.”
It adds: “Carningli translates as the Mountain of Angels. It may have been a holy site long before Christian times but since the Age of the Saints the hilltop has been associated with the Celtic St Brynach.
“Not a great deal is known about Brynach, who was a 6th century missionary. One of the few references to him describes him as a ‘Son of Israel’ and he is also said to have talked with animals and birds.
“Legend has it Brynach communed with angels, possibly at the top of Carningli. Listen out for the song of skylarks and you may also hear the harsh nasal call of ravens.”