Sunday, 14 August 2022

Councillors concerned over plan for new large pig farm

PLANS for a new pig farm  near Watlington with almost 2,000 animals is concerning parish councillors.

John Mearns, of Red Lion Farm in Britwell Salome, wants to build two livestock buildings on land north of the B4009.

It comes as the rented land nearby that he currently uses is likely to be redeveloped for housing.

Archstone and Bloor Homes have submitted plans for 183 houses on the land between the B4009 Britwell Road and the B480 Cuxham Road. The site is in Watlington’s draft neighbourhood plan.

Mr Mearns has operated the existing livestock unit for the past seven years and it is about 700m to the east of the proposed site.

He is seeking planning permission for two pig rearing and finishing units, each measuring 55m by 15m and housing 950 pigs.

A design and access statement says: “The site has operated efficiently and without complaint for the duration on the tenancy agreement.

“The applicants have recently been informed of the landlord’s intentions to develop the site for residential purposes in the very near future. Therefore, they have an urgent and essential need to provide their business with an alternative source of income in order to subsidise the inevitable loss of earnings, should they aim to remain economically sustainable.

“The proposal will enable the next generation of the farming family to continue operating within the agricultural sector and offers an attractive career opportunity with future financial sustainability.

“The overall proposal seeks full planning permission for two pig rearing and finishing units, housing 1,900 pigs in total.”

Watlington Parish Council’s planning committee said it did not object to a new pig farm but was concerned at the lack of information on how the new operation would compare with the existing one in terms of smell.

It added: “There is not sufficient information on the noise levels in Watlington from the site. The noise levels from the current site are excessive in Watlington at times.

“It is situated close to habitation, Cuxham, and to the proposed development, which might be affected and there is no recognition of this.

“There is no information on the number of pigs now and the percentage increase and there is concern about the expansion in size.”

Councillors were also concerned about effluent leaking into the Chalgrove Brook and the potential for ammonia emmisions to affect plants on Watlington Hill, a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Red Lion Farm says it would ensure a good standard of general cleanliness for animal welfare and odour control.

It continues: “The proposed site layout includes a straw bedded lying area and a concrete dunging area.

“The dunging area will be scraped on a daily basis, removing the manure from the building. Daily scraping of the dunging area minimises odour emissions from the building.

“A covered concrete manure midden area is proposed at the eastern end of the proposed buildings for temporary storage of the manure. The midden area will be enclosed by a catchment drain and dirty water arising from the buildings and manure pad will be collected within a sealed underground containment tank. The dirty water tank will not be allowed to overfill.

“The manure midden area at the eastern end of the proposed buildings will be emptied on a frequent basis and the manure removed from the site for storage and spreading on agricultural land in accordance with a farm waste management plan.

“All concrete flooring and drains will be regularly inspected and any damage repaired to prevent ponding within the building.

“The pens will be bedded with fresh straw on a daily basis to keep the animals clean and absorb any excreta. All drinkers and troughs will be inspected daily to prevent water leakage.”

Britwell Salome Parish Council has recommended the application is approved.

Red Lion Farm has a mixture of arable and livestock land with 1,000 acres that is owner-occupied and another 1,500 acres that is rented.

South Oxfordshire District Council will make a decision on the application by October 25.

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