DEFIANT villagers say they are opposed to the Welsh Government’s multi-million pound purchase of a Powys farm – fearing it could be developed for mass tourism events such as festivals.

The Welsh Government announced last month that it had paid £4.25 million for Gilestone Farm, just outside Talybont-on-Usk, and that organisers of the popular Green Man Festival would take over the day-to-day running of it.

Green Man – which has been held at the nearby Glanusk Estate, close to Crickhowell, since 2006 – is expected to stay put. But local residents in Talybont, which is less than 10 miles up the road, fear the purchase will have a detrimental impact on the countryside.

At a public meeting held in the village last week, attended by local politicians, any proposals for Gilestone that involve promoting mass events were unanimously rejected.

Phil Darbyshire, who chaired the meeting at Henderson Hall, said: “I do hope we can come to some compromise with the Green Man Festival.

“At the end of the day their brand of green credentials and sustainability is very much in tune 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 may be negotiable, perhaps linked to educational workshops in various sustainability

projects, maybe in conjunction with a university department. This would I think find approval.

“But any development must be constrained by a legal framework and properly policed – we have in the past experienced poor planning and licensing control from local authorities.”

The National Wales:  Gilestone Farm (pictured bottom, centre) lies in the heart of the Usk Valley Gilestone Farm (pictured bottom, centre) lies in the heart of the Usk Valley

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 deal to purchase and the government’s involvement with Green Man seems to have escaped public scrutiny – neither the government nor festival bosses would comment in the wake of the news of Gilestone’s purchase.

Ms Jones said she had “serious concerns” regarding the purchase. “I have no doubt that Green Man will make a success of this venture – it has operated a best-in-class festival in Crickhowell for almost 20 years,” she said.

“But it appears that the Welsh Government has chosen to take a productive farm out of operation and hand it to the events sector without much transparency or competition. I think this says everything about the Welsh Government’s view of farming.”

Economy minister Vaughan Gething, however, had told the Senedd of the importance of securing the future of Green Man in Powys. “When it comes to the amount we've invested in this area, it is about securing the longer-term future for Green Man in Wales, and I believe we've made the right choice in doing so,” said Mr Gething when questioned on the sale of Gilestone by Mr Evans.

Another resident said at last Thursday’s meeting they feared that hosting Green Man, or any other proposed event, could damage the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Gilestone site – which is situated inside the Brecon Beacons National Park.

“The farm is situated in a highly sensitive wildlife area and the River Usk which borders the farm is a Special Area of Conservation,” said the resident.

“We are in a national park where the conservation of the landscape and nature is a top priority.

“We have no objection to Green Man or to festivals in general. The objection is to the imposition of mass tourism events such as festivals in an unsuitable location, completely against the wishes of the host community and within a designated UK national park where the government’s stated aim is

to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage.

“Nothing that Green Man does must put that at risk. In fact, it must enhance it.”

After a comment and question session, those in attendance were asked to vote on whether festivals and similar mass tourism events (say, over 500 people) should be allowed to take place at Gilestone Farm – the vote was met with an overwhelming ‘No’.

Green Man Festival is one of only five large independent festivals in the UK and the idea behind the Welsh Government’s purchase of Gilestone is with a view to securing its future in Wales, and more importantly in Powys.

Mr Gething did, however, confirm there has been interest in purchasing the festival brand and he suggested Green Man could migrate to a different part of the country, or even move from Wales completely.

He told the Senedd: “The overall ambition is to make sure that one of the most significant

economic undertakings in the festival scene has a permanent home in Wales.”

He confirmed the purchase, and price paid, when questioned by Mr Evans, and said he would be happy to further update members on the use of the land.

He also confirmed talks are taking place with Green Man Festival about it potentially leasing the farm, though the Welsh Government has yet to see a business plan. He refused to be drawn on how it would use the site but said the purchase was intended 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 claims from BBC Wales that 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 one-day 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 evolved into a three-day event, with 3,000 people attending.

It moved to the Glanusk site in 2006, with organisers this year marking the festival’s 20th anniversary. Last year 25,000 people attended.