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 Alison Caffyn

Alison Caffyn

Research student, School of Geography and Planning


I have been researching contestations around intensive livestock farming developments for an ESRC funded PhD. I successfully defended my thesis in January 2021 and am currently writing several articles about my research. I live in Shropshire and my research has focused on the planning regimes in Herefordshire and Shropshire.

I’m interested in the multiple impacts of intensive livestock production and the power relations involved in attacking and defending proposals for further development of the sector. Intensive production of poultry, pigs, dairy and to a lesser extent beef is now widespread across much of the UK and local communities have multiple concerns about air and water pollution, biodiversity loss, economic externalities and damage to landscapes and quality of life, in addition to the contribution meat production makes to the climate crisis. My research has traced the polarised arguments and the challenges faced by planning authorities and environmental agencies handling contested evidence of impacts. I’m interested in how, despite rising concern about the need for transformation of the food system, little attention is paid to the continued expansion of the conventional intensive livestock sector. I have also been exploring whether intensive livestock farming is beginning to harm other rural economic sectors such as tourism and recreation.

I have many years’ experience of research and consultancy in public, private and academic contexts, largely specialising in rural regeneration and tourism development. Prior to researching at Cardiff University, I was a freelance consultant for ten years. Previously I have held posts at ECOTEC Research and Consulting, University of Birmingham and several tourist boards. I have held advisory roles at the National Trust (Midlands) and am a member of the Shropshire Hills AONB Partnership.


PhD Geography and Planning, University of Cardiff

MSocSc Leisure and Tourism, University of Birmingham

BA Geography, Durham University


Research interests

The ESRC funded research has explored the contestations around the impacts of intensive poultry units in Herefordshire and Shropshire. These two counties have the highest numbers of broiler poultry units in the UK – there has been a four fold increase over the last 20-30 years. There are approaching 38 million birds across Herefordshire and Shropshire at any one time, with multiple crops of birds a year. Local communities have been increasingly objecting to many of the planning applications and there has been rising concern about cumulative impacts of ammonia emissions and nutrient pollution in watercourses.

My research questions were::

  1. How have controversies about intensive poultry unit (IPU) developments in Herefordshire and Shropshire emerged?

  2. How have values, knowledge and experience been contested during the planning process?

  3. How is power enacted and performed by the actors involved in IPU contestations?

The research involved identifying and mapping all poultry units in the two counties using planning permission and environmental permit data. A range of over 50 stakeholders were interviewed – farmers, planners, environmental agencies, objectors, decision makers and tourism interests. The research draws on analysis of policy and planning application documentation, meeting observations and extensive fieldwork. I have been particularly interested in how people experience the poultry units in the landscape once built. I have also explored whether there is evidence that the proliferation of units could harm the local visitor economy.

A number of academic articles based on various aspects of the research are in preparation.



Mara Miele and Chris Bear


I taught previously at the University of Birminghm Centre for Urban and Regional Studies, leading modules on tourism, leisure and rural policy and planning as part of the Geography and Planning degree.

I was also course director for the Tourism Policy and Management Masters Programme teaching multiple modules.

At Cardiff I have contributed lectures and seminars to the Mobilities: Travel, Tourism and Communication module, over the last three years.


Creating a stink. Controversies over intensive poultry unit developments in Herefordshire and Shropshire: contested values, knowledge and experience.

Funding source