1. The Impact to the local landscape
The proposed poultry barns are low-level building which are below the treeline and designed to blend into their surrounding environment as closely as possible. The Whin Close site is shielded from view from all residential properties within the area. The site is not visible from the BI454, Fring lane or the Peddars Way trail. The current view across the fields to Camp Wood will remain unchanged from this development.
The immediate vicinity has three existing agricultural complexes. East Hall Farm is on the outskirts of Sedgeford and is highly visible from the entrance to Whin Close. This has a single large tractor shed, a double tractor shed and grain drying complex with silos. On the outskirts of Sedgeford but visible from the top of the village is the old sports complex formerly a lucerne drying complex which consist of two very large sheds/stores and a covered building. In Fring there is a substantial grain dryer unit in the heart of the village.
Distant views of the The Whin Close poultry barns will be possible from Fring church yard. However a substantial and highly visible 30ft high grain drying unit is sited 100 metres from the same church yard so it is difficult to envisage that the surrounding character will be unduly changed. Nevertheless the site will also be screened from two further sides ensuring that it is screened from all aspects.
2. Local concerns regarding potential environmental issues.
The main environmental concerns are in regard to the potential for nuisance smells, dust and flies to be generated from the poultry barns, pollution to local watercourses and general health risks.
Many of these areas are covered from legislation outside of the planning framework. Poultry farm operators are required by law to apply for an environmental permit these govern activities that need to be managed for their local environment. A permit gives the holder permission to carry out certain types of activities at a specific location. It sets conditions which will protect the environment and people’s health.
If the environment agency grants a permit then the farm is subject to periodic audits and inspections to check compliance with the permit. The Environment Agency review all permit conditions and can change them at any time. Enforcement action occurs if the permit holder breaks the conditions of their permit. Permits are only issued if the Environment Agency is satisfied that the facility will be designed, constructed and operated in a manner that will not cause significant pollution of the environment or harm to human health.
The permit contains conditions that the Environment Agency enforces ensuring that odour and noise pollution from poultry barns are kept to a minimum.
Modern poultry farms have to be built using the best available techniques, and managed to minimise odour and noise. The regulator ensures that the permit holder complies with best practise conditions to keep emissions including odour and noise, to a minimum. They will assess any information submitted with applications and ensure that the odour and noise management and control measures are satisfactory. The Environment Agency will NOT issue a permit for a new site if they consider odour and noise would be at levels that would cause significant pollution off site.
Chickens are on site for approximately 40 days. The permit contains conditions to ensure a farm is kept as clean and dry as possible through appropriate management practices. Due to the short length of the growing cycle and the way a farm is managed, the Environment Agency would not expect to see an issue with flies or dust. Once the birds have left a farm, all the litter is removed and the sheds are thoroughly cleaned. In the unlikely event of flies or dust causing annoyance, the agency will ensure the operator reviews any relevant management practices in line with permit conditions.
In 2015 4000 tons of bio-solids was delivered and stored on the land prior to being spread on the fields. Bio-solid (muck) spreading inevitably leads to some odours being detectable within the local area. It is generally accepted that spreading has far greater potential to cause ‘nuisance’ smells than poultry rearing operations.
Should this proposal go ahead, restrictions on spreading bio-solids around livestock units will reduce this amount to 2100 tonnes (48%) Significantly reducing the overall risk of any potential nuisance smells within the immediate locality.
The original application for 8 poultry barns met the criteria for the Environment Agency to issue a permit. The subsequent reduction of the number of birds on site by 50% in this new application should give solid reassurance about the minimal risk of potential environmental issues from this proposal.
3. Effect on local tourism
There is no evidence that modern poultry barns have an impact on the desirability of an area or the tourism industry.
West Norfolk has a thriving poultry industry. If you live in any of these 30 local towns and villages you are within 3 miles of between 2 and 30 large poultry barns:
Thursford, Hempton, Fakenham, Hindringham, Field Dalling, Colkirk, Bale, Gunthorpe, Great Snoring, Hempton, Swanton Novers, Shereford, Dunton, Toftrees, Helhoughton, East Rudham, Little Snoring, West Raynham, Wellingham, South Raynham, East Raynham, Weasenham, Tittleshall, Whisonsett, Horningtoft, Sculthorpe, Kettlestone, West Ryburgh, Little Ryburgh and Great Ryburgh.
In this same area over 80 restaurants, holiday rentals, pubs, cafes, attractions, camp sites, B&B’s and hotels operate. TripAdvisor, the leading review site has generated from visitors thousands of reviews on all the establishments in this area. We were unable to find any that made any reference to poultry farming.
The Fox and Hounds at Weasenham St Peter is located 1.2 miles from the largest poultry farm in the area with 16 poultry barns housing 640,000.birds. This is exactly the same distance as the King William at Sedgeford would be located to the 4 poultry barns at Whin Close housing 160,000. Every TripAdvisor review in the last 18 months has given the Fox and Hounds the highest possible review score. In the past 3 years, of the 41 reviews posted about the Fox and Hounds, 35 were excellent and 6 very good.(Research date 8/12/15)
There is also no proof that poultry barns have had any adverse effects on local communities. A key indicator of an areas overall desirability is house prices. In the past 10 years house prices in Colkirk (population 547) which has 30+ poultry barns within a 3 mile radius have risen 29%. In Sedgeford (population 540) which has no poultry barns within a 12 mile radius, house prices have risen 26.5%.