Residents vowing to lie in road to stop lorries
ANGRY residents of Llancloudy in south Herefordshire have told Defra they are not prepared to travel to London to discuss the removal of thousands of tonnes of buried foot-and-mouth waste from a farm near their properties.
Instead, they want Defra representatives to visit the village to see the problems they would have to face if the waste - at Hill Farm - is removed as proposed by a massive convoy of lorries along a single-track lane near their homes.
One of the residents, David George, said: "We want them to come and see the situation first hand. There is not much point in going to London just to do some talking. We can do that by phone.
"We want to show them the narrowness of the track, the closeness of the homes and how the lorries would shake and damage the foundations of our properties."
Hill Farm was the first holding in Herefordshire and among the first in Britain to be affected by the disease four years ago. Besides animal and other waste, some 1,000 carcasses from several farms are buried there.
Mr George and other villagers say that because Defra will not place a bond on their properties to cover them for structural damage, they are prepared to lie down in the road to prevent the lorries travelling past their homes.
Defra were also not prepared to place a bond on the main drive from the farm to the road which was the easiest and safest route, said Mr George.
He claimed a contractors' report had estimated the removal of some 8,000 tonnes, including sub-soil, and the involvement of between 700 and 900 lorries.
Defra minister Ben Bradshaw has promised to meet Hereford MP Paul Keetch and the residents to discuss the removal operation and the reinstatement of the land but only in London, as the exact access route had not been agreed.
Mr Bradshaw told Mr Keetch in a written Parliamentary answer that because of on-going litigation between the owners of Hill Farm and Defra, officials believed the meeting should not be held on site.
"I am puzzled as to why the meeting can't take place there," said Mr Keetch. Defra had told him the preferred route was along the access drive from Hill Farm to the main road but the owners, Kevin Feakins and Georgina Hawkins, had not agreed to this.
On Tuesday, Mr Keetch said the minister had told him a meeting with residents would take place before a final decision was made on a route. Herefordshire Council planners have given the go-ahead for topsoil to be taken to the farm.
First published on Thursday 30 June 2005:
Villagers vow to fight plans
VILLAGERS in Llancloudy say they are prepared to lie down in the road to prevent lorries carrying foot-and-mouth waste from trundling down a narrow single farm track past their cottages.
The villagers became alarmed after hearing of a plan to move buried waste from Hill Farm, the first farm in Herefordshire to be affected by foot and mouth, and where it is estimated 1,000 carcasses from several nearby farms are buried.
The farmer, Mr Kevin Feakins has said that during his claim for damages relating to the foot-and-mouth outbreak, a High Court judge ordered the waste material to be removed.
Herefordshire Council is displaying a notice in the village proposing to import top soil to be stockpiled in a field until required for use in "remediation works following excavation and removal of farm waste materials".
But villagers are worried that the lorries carrying the waste will shake and damage the foundations of their properties.
David George, who lives in a converted barn, said people wanted a bond placed on their properties so that any costs relating to structural damage would be covered.
"We are very worried about structural damage and very concerned about the content of the so-called farmyard manure which we believe is contaminated with harmful asbestos from old buildings cleared during the outbreak, animal waste, soiled bedding, chemicals and all kinds of matter."
The plan is to haul the waste over fields from the farm in large dumpers, pile it adjacent to Mr George's property and then transport it by lorry past the homes to the main road, where it is expected to be taken for incineration.
The large crater remaining would be filled with top soil to be imported to the farm.
"We are also concerned about the health risks particularly with regard to the children," Mr George added.
The initial plan was to haul the waste along the main farm drive to the road where the exit is safer than that from the farm track where it comes out next to a small chapel and graveyard and is on a bend.
Villages were so concerned they were prepared to "block the lane and lie down in it and they will physically have to move us", said Mr George.
Villagers Ted and Lesley Hayward said Hereford's MP Paul Keetch had asked for a meeting with Defra representatives about the residents' concerns.
"The risk to the properties and possible cost involved is far greater than those relating to any repair of damage to the farm drive," pointed out Mr Hayward, who said the villagers had asked for a risk assessment to which they were entitled.
Resident Tim Hunt said that from a highways point of view it would definitely be safer to use the farm drive.
First published on Thursday 08 March 2001:
Silence in wake of farm clean up
A HEREFORDSHIRE farm that fell victim to Foot and Mouth is a hive of activity - but the wrong type.
Gina Hawkins has described the clear-up at Hill Farm as being like a `military operation'.
Around 20 MAFF men are on the Llancloudy land removing every trace of last week's mass burning.
The familiar noise of 870 grazing cattle and sheep has been replaced by that of massive jets of water wiping out remains of the slaughter.
There is so much work to be done disinfecting every inch of the land and property that Gina and fiancée Kevin Feakins have had little chance to dwell on their loss. But they know that when MAFF leaves there will be a deathly silence.
The Ministry is certainly keeping the couple busy and Gina often finds herself cooking for 20. She is more than happy to do that to take her mind off the trauma of last week.
They are still prisoners in their own home - the telephone their only lifeline to the outside world. Gina admits she is being driven `stir crazy'. But she said the support from friends has been immense and the letters of kindness from people they have never met overwhelming.
While Kevin has lost all his livestock, Gina takes a lot of comfort in the fact that she still has her six dogs and 27 horses. When things get too much for her she goes out on her favourite stallion, one that she told the Ministry vet she would have hidden if her horses had been among the animals that had to be killed.
Taking each day as it comes, unable to think of the future, they are trying to remain positive. Although that is not easy when everything they own, everything that was around them, has been so dramatically changed.
Gina said: "It's not the same farm anymore. The noise of the animals has gone. There are people here every day who we don't know. Things are getting moved so we don't know where anything is. It feels very strange."
First published on Monday 14 May 2001:
Farmers needing help get `kick in teeth' by ministry
A HUGE barrage of complaints were levelled at MAFF over its handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis by 150 angry farmers, representatives of tourist organisations and associated rural businesses.
They protested at a meeting in Hereford Town Hall on Friday that MAFF was inadequate in its handling of the outbreak, that the ministry bureaucracy was strangling the industry, and that the welfare scheme, designed to get meat back onto shop shelves, was hopelessly mismanaged.
Hereford Lib-Dem MP, Paul Keetch, called the meeting, primarily to discuss the savage slash in compensation rates for slaughtered stock under the welfare plan and for farmers to air grievances in an area which he said was the number four hot spot for the disease in Britain.
The farmers impressed on Mr Keetch that the welfare of stock remained a major problem.
Elwyn Maddy, chairman of the Herefordshire branch of the National Farmers' Union, said that the welfare system was completely flawed. Farmers also needed desperately to have movement restrictions eased, he said.
Stuart Thomas, a former county chairman, who chaired the meeting, said 700 farmers in Herefordshire were affected by D notices because they were close to infected farms and had their cull payments dramatically cut, through no fault of their own.
"The farmers have gone on feeding stock. And just when they want a helping hand they are getting a kick in the teeth. We cannot go on having knock after knock.
"People who work so hard don't deserve the treatment that this Government is offering," he said.
Many farmers gave accounts of 'farcical' negotiations with MAFF. They complained that the cuts in cull prices had come out of the blue. And with general livestock prices dropping they were losing a great deal of money.
AT the foot-and-mouth meeting in Hereford Town Hall, Graham Watkins, a Young Farmer from Woolhope, called for a speed up of tests on animals.
"If we have not got the disease there is no reason why we should be under restriction. He said he had waited for three weeks for tests. "We have had to feed to keep the animals alive."
Repeated attempts had been made to plough through bureaucracy to get movement licences. He later asked: "What does someone in Worcester, Bristol or Cardiff know about the local area. Information should be controlled by people on the ground and not in offices somewhere."
Mr Keetch said that when inquiries were made by farmers, MAFF representatives would not make a decision.
"There has been such a big increase in bureaucracy and a cutback in administration and that's why we have a lack of vets and are regarded as a soft touch for meat imports."
To cut cash from D-licenced farmers by more than a third was mean and worrying, he went on.
Emphasising the welfare problems, one farmer said that there were as many as 1,200 sheep stuck on a farm without a market.
Supermarkets also came in for criticism and Mr Keetch said he didn't know what other country allowed them to have such control.
Janet Robins, a member of the Golden Valley Bed and Breakfast Group, said vaccination ought to be considered as a wholesale option as the slaughter of animals was barbaric and mediaeval.
Mr Maddy pointed out that the existing vaccination plans were flawed while the blood testing for foot and mouth was inconsistent.
If there was another outbreak, he had no doubts that vaccination would be considered immediately for use in certain areas.
A questioner said an American offer to Britain of equipment for quick diagnose of the disease had been refused.
Derek Wareham, a former county NFU chairman, said tourism was closely tied in with farming. If there were no sheep on the hills, only bracken would remain.
Mr Keetch regretted that the Army had not been brought in much earlier as he had suggested in the early days of the outbreak, and that a base had not been set up in the county.
At the end of the crisis the country needed to take a long and careful look at livestock production.
People should have their say from the bottom up and not from the politicians downwards. Mr Thomas urged farmers to record their complaints and problems and send them to Mr Keetch at Westminster. "This catastrophe must not be allowed to happen again, " he said.
First published on Thursday 13 December 2001:
Farmer sued for £500,000
A HEREFORDSHIRE farmer is being sued by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs for more than £500,000.
Kevin Feakins, of Hill Farm, Llancloudy, is accused in a High Court writ issued by DEFRA of selling his farm to Georgina Hawkins, of the same address, for a sum well below its true value for the purpose of defrauding creditors.
Solicitors acting for DEFRA filed the writ in the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court against Mr Feakins and Miss Hawkins at the end of last month.
According to the Rural Payments Agency, an executive agency of DEFRA, a `freezing injunction' over the assets of Mr Feakins was then secured, valid until trial or further order, to which his response is awaited.
DEFRA is seeking around £595,000, which it claims is a sum equal to the current open market rate of Hill Farm (£1.05million) less the value of Mr Feakins' prior indebtedness to National Westminster Bank.
Catherine Cookson, a spokesman for the Rural Payment Agency, said the amount in question relates to `sheep meat claw back' taxes Mr Feakins is alleged to owe to the now defunct Intervention Board for Agricultural Produce.
l Earlier this year Mr Feakins made national headlines during the foot and mouth crisis when he suffered the first outbreak of the disease in Herefordshire among sheep on his 300-acre farm.
He later admitted that he may have unwittingly exported foot and mouth to the continent but said that the claims made against him were designed to save the skins of politicians in the run up to the general election.
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