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Intensive chicken farm proposal for Thoroton has villagers up in arms

Villagers are urging people to object to a proposal to create a 'mega' chicken farm.

An application has been submitted for four huge chicken sheds ­— 11,673sqm net of farm floorspace accommodating 220,000 birds at a time ­— on land west of Main Street, Thoroton, near the Orston crossroads.

It has been submitted by a farmer who already has eight equally large sheds nearby.

Objections to the application have to be registered with Rushcliffe Borough Council by Wednesday, but villagers are seeking an extension because they say their ability to fight the proposal is hampered by an inability to meet because of coronavirus, and the fact educating themselves on mass poultry farming takes time.

Villagers campaign against the chicken farm proposal. (42457376)
Villagers campaign against the chicken farm proposal. (42457376)

The opposition is from residents in Thoroton, Orston, Aslockton, Hawksworth and Screveton.

One resident, Christine Williams, said: "The coronavirus pandemic started in animals and avian flu is sadly common among chickens. We do not need this threat on our doorstep.We fear this would be an avian flu or another coronavirus waiting to happen if it goes ahead.

"Mega farms are something that Parliament and the Environment Agency really need to get a handle on.

"A defence needs to be based upon hard data and we don't have the time to compile that. That's why we're asking for an extension.

"What is being asked for is another four chicken sheds which, if built, will extend the existing mega chicken farm from eight to 12 sheds. Approximately five million chickens will be processed a year from these units.

"The design and access statement facts and figures apply to the proposal not the totals of the combined site.

"The application is for an additional factory mega farm of a scale that is significant in UK farming.

"This type of farming has catastrophic impacts for people and the local environment. Similar to the clothing industry, there is a drive towards making everything cheaper, but how do we know the risks of producing these massed, not chickens, but avian freaks as they have been described."

Objections to Richard Ogden, of Smite Farms Ltd's proposal relate to the presence of chicken manure, any possible threat to wildlife it poses, and the creation of ammonia or nitrous oxide when it decays, with the perception the extraction system will deposit the smell over Thoroton.

They also include concerns of an over-intensification of farming chickens, poor road infrastructure and a creep into the countryside of industrial development.

Christine said: "The proposal would open up a new building corridor in a green belt area. How long before another application to extend the site?

"We live with the chicken farm, we're against it increasing in size."

In respect of the suggestions the development could bring avian flu or a new coronavirus, agent for the application Ian Pick, of Ian Pick Associates, said: "There is no scientific basis for any objection on those grounds. It is not something recognised as a potential issue in policy.

"It's just propaganda and something we are encountering more and more.

"Intensive farming of chickens started after the second world war.

"While there is an existing chicken farm, albeit owned by the same person, this is a separate application we are submitting that will operate as a stand alone."

Mr Pick said that combined, the two farms, with a yield of 660,000 birds at a time, were towards the top end of the scale of such intensive farms nationally, but by no means the biggest with some producing more than a million chickens.

"What we are up against here is an enormous demand for chicken in this country and we react to the requirement of the British public.

"94% of of chicken in the UK comes from intensive farming systems ­— only 6% is organic and free range.

"The demand for healthy white meat just goes up, up and up.

"We import from South America, from Thailand because we are not self-sufficient in chickens.

"The advent of intensive farming systems allowed the population of the world to expand.

"These are not the same techniques employed 50 years ago when the techniques and the conditions or the environments for the birds were not pleasant.

"Now these units are built to Red Tractor standards with climate control and windows letting in natural light.

"The UK standards are far better than the rest of the world, better than the EU standard.

"What gets me is that the same people signing Jamie Oliver's petitions to stop produce of lower standards coming over under new trade deals are probably the same people who don't want units built here."

Mr Pick said even when combined, the odour from the existing farm and the proposed one would fall beneath the Environment Agency's threshold on smells in terms of protecting amenity, the proposed plant would be further than the agency's 400m separation from a neighbouring property and that the local roads were far superior than the single farm tracks that usually accompanied such developments, who, by their very nature, were rural outposts.

He said ammonia levels had been fully modelled and were compliant and that manure would not be stored on site because of the disease risk to incoming chicks and would be removed by an approved contractor.

Ian Pick Associates report that accompanies the application reads in part: "The use of the proposed poultry buildings is for the rearing of broilers from day-old chicks through to finished table weight. The broiler rearing cycle operates on an all in all out system, and each cycle takes 48 days.

"The broilers are reared for approximately 38 days following which the poultry buildings are cleaned out in preparation for the next batch of birds.

"The buildings are empty for cleaning and preparation for ten days at the end of the growing cycle.

"The proposed unit will operate with up to 7.5 flocks per birds per annum."

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