Report on the agricultural land
The Agricultural Land Classification (ALC) of the fields comprising the proposed development site was assessed by ADAS in October 2012 at the request of the Welsh Government.
They note that this gently undulating area of lowland Wales has mainly heavy clay loam topsoil formed over limestone. Slow permeable clay loam was located at depth in deeper soils making these prone to seasonal wetness. Limestone was located on slopes and hill tops. The report described the land quality as ranging from 3a to 3b. The ALC guidelines describe these grades as follows;
Grade 3 – good to moderate quality agricultural land: Land with moderate limitations which affect the choice of crops, timing and type of cultivation, harvesting or the level of yield. Where more demanding crops are grown yields are generally lower or more variable than on land in Grades 1 and 2.
Sub-grade 3a – good quality agricultural land: Land capable of consistently producing moderate to high yields of a narrow range of arable crops, especially cereals, or moderate yields of a wide range of crops including cereals, grass, oilseed rape, potatoes, sugar beet and the less demanding horticultural crops.
Sub grade 3b – moderate quality agricultural land: Land capable of producing moderate yields of a narrow range of crops, principally cereals and grass or lower yields of a wider range of crops or high yields of grass which can be grazed or harvested over most of the year.
Sub-grade 3a land, together with grades 1 & 2 are afforded a high degree of planning protection.
The land is currently grazed by cattle and sheep in the northerly field and a variety of crops including wheat, barley and oilseed rape is grown on the large southerly field.
The report reveals that 6.91 hectares of the site within the southerly field is classified as as grade 3a and 20.87 hectares of the site to the north of this is primarily grade 3b, largely due to the soil being deemed shallow, or too wet and heavily textured for the higher grade. It must be noted though that there is not simple division between the two grades on this site. The survey reveals that there are areas of grade 3a land within the area mapped as 3b where soil depth and other relevant characteristics are consistent with this classification. In other words there are patches of higher grade land within the lower grade area.
The grading report itself does not tell the complete story. Inquiries made by Saving Sully action group have revealed that from the farming perspective, the arable field is particularly useful due to its flexibility. We have had challenging weather extremes over the last few years and the characteristics of the field have afforded farmers flexibility in the type of crops cultivated, both in terms of the type of crop and the timing of planting and harvesting at times when other land would not have been productive. Any impact on this land will therefore result in loss of agricultural benefits. It must also be argued that any development on the northerly grazed field will affect the quality of the grade 3a land in the southerly field due to changes in land drainage and potential water run-off.