Family working farm for 90 years 'devastated' by eviction notice

210821 Model Farm

A family fighting to save their farm from developers have opened up about the emotional impact of potentially losing their home of almost 90 years.

The Jenkins family were asked to leave their farm near Cardiff Airport by the end of July next year as the landowners want to build a 45-acre business park there.

Since 1935, four generations of the family have worked at Model Farm on Port Road in the Vale of Glamorgan.

"We've got photos of mum and dad on the farm when they were kids, and me and my sisters were brought up here on the farm," said Rhys Jenkins, who lives at Model Farm with his wife Kelly Jenkins, their two daughters, aged one and three years old, and Rhys’s father Gethin.

Gethin, who is now 68, was born and raised on the farm and has spent his entire life there.

"It's devastating. It's had a real effect on dad, to be honest," said Rhys.

"It's horrible to see what it's doing to everyone, but especially to dad. He's spent pretty much every day of his life on this farm since he was born until this day.

"To see what he's going through is not nice at all. It's not doing his health any good, I know that."

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Rhys added: "Dad has always had the ambition to pass the farm on to me. He's worked on building everything up on this farm from a young age.

"When his father was first on there, there was no water tanks, no fences, there was nothing. You couldn't have livestock here at all because there was no water supply.

"So that's something they've had to do is dig every hedgerow and put water pipes and water tanks in every field to be able to put livestock in them. Build up the soil and condition it and get good soil, and that's not something that happens overnight. That's taken 50, 60 years at least to get right.

"He's poured all of his blood, sweat and tears into this farm and just like that it can get taken away."

Legal and General, a financial services firm which owns the land Model Farm stands on, received planning permission last month to build a business park on the farm, the Local Democracy Reporting Service reports.

A campaign group set up to save Model Farm is quickly gaining thousands of supporters, raising money for legal fees to appeal the decision and is planning a protest at the Senedd building on Saturday.

Politicians have slammed Vale of Glamorgan council for granting planning permission, which in the same month declared a "nature emergency" and pledged to protect the environment.

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Legal and General said the business park would create more than 3,000 jobs and bring in £94 million of wages each year. The council said it would help support the local economy.

Kelly Jenkins said the family is still in shock and is unsure where they will move to next year.

She said: "We've been given 12 months, until July 31 next year. They handed our notice to us on July 31 just gone, with a letter delivered by an enforcement officer.

"We have had no contact with Legal and General whatsoever. We thought they would at least have the decency to sit us down and talk to us about it. It's shocking how they're treating us."We haven't spoken about [where we'll go]. We didn’t think it was going to go ahead. We didn't think they would pursue the plans with Covid, and with the climate emergency the Vale council has declared, we didn’t think they would let this go ahead.

"Rhys will try to carry on the farm. Maybe something might come up between now and in 12 months time. But at the minute it's all up in the air. As a family we're just devastated."

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The family rear beef cattle and grow cereal crops and wildflowers, selling wildflower seeds across Wales.

Model Farm lies north of Porthkerry Country Park. As part of the plans, Legal and General will give about 49 hectares of land towards extending the country park.

But despite the extension, local campaigners are claiming the business park will have a negative impact on the local environment, harming biodiversity and increasing congestion.Vale Communities Unite, a community group set up to save Model Farm, has launched a fundraiser for legal fees, and is planning to protest outside the Senedd at 11am on Saturday, August 21.Gail Elizabeth, one of the campaigners, said: "I didn't think it would get this far. When permission was granted I was horrified. There’s huge opposition from locals, and over 1,000 residents opposed it."The farmers have supported us over a number of years in various ways. They're huge in the community and have been for years.

"The main road out of Rhoose, Porthkerry Road, has flooded on a number of occasions, so we were trapped. And the farmer pumped out the water for us and cleared the road."

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Campaigners have claimed that planning relied on future improvements to public transport, an estimated increase in people working from home and fewer commuting, and added how the lack of a proposed M4 link road would exacerbate problems.This summer both the Senedd and Vale of Glamorgan council declared a 'nature emergency', pledging to protect biodiversity and prevent the loss of ecological habitats.

In 2019, they also declared a 'climate emergency', pledging to tackle carbon emissions and the climate crisis.Janet Finch Saunders MS, Welsh Conservative climate change spokeswoman, said: "Just last week we saw the IPCC report saying it’s 'code red for humanity' - yet Welsh Labour don't seem to have got the message."The Labour council's decision is disastrous for the environment, will mean more congestion and greater pollution, and goes against everything their colleagues say about climate change in Cardiff Bay."Councillor Ian Johnson, Plaid Cymru group leader on the Vale council, said: "I cannot see how this development can sit alongside the climate emergency and nature emergency declared by the Senedd and Vale of Glamorgan council."We need an urgent statement from the Welsh Government about how the climate emergency and nature emergency affect planning regulations and guidance, and whether or not they support these plans for development at Model Farm."

Credit: Rob Browne/WalesOnline

The Vale council's planning committee approved planning permission after nine Independent and Labour councillors voted in favour, while eight Plaid and Tory councillors voted against it.

Labour argued the business park would create jobs in the local area. Legal and General have said an unnamed 'high-profile employer' would run the business park.The council defended its decision by saying the land has been included in the local development plan since 2011, while Legal and General said the plans would create local jobs, bring in millions in new wages, and would give some land to Porthkerry Country Park.A Vale of Glamorgan council spokesperson also said the development will have connections to Cardiff Airport."Cardiff Airport is an essential part of Wales' transport infrastructure. As an international gateway, it connects Wales to the rest of the world and helps drive the country's economy."A spokesperson from Legal and General said: "An environmental assessment underpins the plans for the site and the management and enhancement of natural habitats and wildlife are a key priority.

"In addition, over half the site - equivalent to circa 67 football pitches - will be handed over to Porthkerry Country Park, extending leisure and recreation facilities."Consideration of development opportunities of other alternative sites would have been extensively consulted on as part of the council's local plan process.

"We sympathise with the tenant, Mr Jenkins, and will continue to communicate with him as part of the next steps in the process of enabling the delivery of this site and its wider community benefits."