Construction of a new organic 18,000 bird free-range poultry unit
The Committee considered a report of the Senior Planning Officer which sought approval for the erection of an egg production unit for organic free-range hens, within 40 acres of newly planted woodland.
The Senior Planning Officer provided a detailed presentation of the application which included a site plan, site photographs and the existing and proposed layouts of the unit.
He further advised that there was an error contained within paragraph 4 of the report, which stated that Councillor Shield had called the application in, when in fact this had been Councillor W Stelling, who was also in attendance to speak.
Councillor Bell noted the reference to the birds using the outside wooded area and queried whether they would be housed inside or out. In response the Senior Planning Officer advised that the birds would effectively be free range, with tree planting used for shelter.
Regarding the objections raised and highlighted by the Senior Planning Officer, the Chair asked whether the officer could confirm the consultation process had been carried out in accordance with protocol. In response the Senior Planning Officer advised that determining who should be consulted was balanced proportionately to the proposals. Those closest to the site had in this case been consulted. Consulting on a wider basis could result in accusations that the Officer was attempting to build objections.
Councillor W Stelling, local Member addressed the committee to speak in objection to the application. He commented that the proposals would have a detrimental impact on the landscape value and a very popular public walk and ancient woodland area. The smell and noise and appearance of the site would change the whole aspect of the valley. The site was also in close proximity to the village of Medomsley and close to the local primary school.
In addition, he added that he too had concerns regarding the potential for the water course to be polluted.
Mrs B Nesham, local resident addressed the committee in objection to the application. She explained that in her opinion the cumulative impact of housing an additional 18,000 birds on this site would be detrimental to neighbouring residents. She further referred to guidance from DEFRA in relation to infill units and permits.
She noted that the access to the site would be a significant investment for the applicant and felt that this may be cause to believe that an additional building may be applied for in the future.
In addition, she too held concerns regarding cross contamination from the nearby burial site and for overall water course pollution from the intensification of the farms use. She advised that the whole area of Medomsley had concerns regarding this application and respectfully asked that the application be refused.
At this point the Senior Planning Officer provided clarification on the boundary of the site and roadway and noted that references made to DEFRA were separate from the planning process.
M Anslow, Neighbourhood Interventions Team explained that the site was 650m away from the nearest village and that buildings of this nature tended not to cause levels of concentrated odour which would impact upon these properties. He further referred to a similar site at Hamsterley, which had received no complaints at all and was in much closer proximity to dwellings.
As a point of clarification at this point, N Carter, Solicitor advised that the points raised by objectors relating to risks of contamination were not supported by evidence, nor were they considered to be likely. He therefore advised that these comments should bear limited weight when determining the application.
At this point the Chair welcomed D Stewart, Principal Development Manager Engineer to advise the committee on the highways impact of the proposals.
The Principal DM Engineer advised that the route to the site was a strategic freight route for the County. The existing access had functioned without issue and it was noted that low levels of movements in and out of the site would be seen each week.
Councillor Tucker asked what proportion of the land would be open for free range and what the proximity of this section of land would be to the existing farm. In response the Senior Planning officer confirmed that there would be 2 fields of separation with wildflower planting between the area used for birds and the existing farm. He further noted that whilst the birds would have a large area, they would not be given unlimited range and this was constrained to a degree.
Mr K Henderson, Applicant addressed the committee in support of the application. He advised that his family had been poultry farmers on the site since 1970 and were registered organic free-range egg providers.
He explained that the birds had a 350m range from the shed.
Mr R Tulip, Lintz Hall Farm advised that they were a family run business, with 60 employees. He explained that over recent years people’s buying habits had changed and increased demand for free-range and organic eggs had been seen, leading to the need to upscale the operation to ensure that existing contracts could be met. He further noted that during the 10-year period that the chicken farm had been in operation, there had been no issues regarding noise, pollution or smell and the application sought to merely extended the current operations.
Councillor Shield referred to the number of residents consulted in Dipton and Medomsley, and agreed that wider consultation in the Medomsley area would have been beneficial. In considering the planning balance he added that paragraph 15 of the NPPF was prescriptive in the requirement for applications to enhance the environment and in his opinion this application, would impact upon the unspoilt landscape, have a negative visual impact and was not well related to the existing farmstead.
He went on to outline his concerns in relation to natural drainage from Pont Burn to the River Derwent and noted objectors concerns regarding the neighbouring burial site. Regarding highways, he added that whilst he acknowledged the officer’s comments, there had been no reference made to the steep, winding nature of the stretch of highway and that many accidents had occurred on this road previously. He felt that the likelihood of an accident occurring would increase when vehicles would be required to slow to allow turning HGV’s.
With all that in mind he added that he was unable to support the proposal in this location as he felt it was contrary to Paragraph 11 and 15 of the NPPF and Paragraphs 10, 31 and 39 of the County Durham Plan.
The Senior Planning Officer, in responding to the comments noted that the applicant had responded well to the officer’s landscape assessment and amended proposals to reflect their requirements.
Councillor Boyes added that whilst he appreciated the local knowledge provided by the members of public and local members present, he was happy with the officer’s recommendations and mitigating measures. He felt that the application sought to serve the greater good, ensuring the continuity of local jobs and was positive from an ethical point of view.
Councillor Tucker asked what other structures were already on site and what was already visible from public view. It was reported that the site housed a conventional farm steading. The site was not visible from the main road but was visible from the higher up settlement of Dipton.
Further discussion took place regarding the proposed road, noting that this would be an agricultural track, surfaced in dark grey bedded chippings. The Senior Planning Officer further commented that in relation to comments made regarding hedges and screening on Long Close bank, these issues would be agreed with the applicant as part of the landscaping scheme.
Councillor Boyes Moved the recommendation subject to the conditions listed in the report.
Councillor Boyd, Seconded the officer’s recommendation.
Following a vote being taken it was
That the application be APPROVED subject to the conditions as listed in the report.