A planned chicken farm supplying birds for slaughter and sale in UK supermarkets is attracting opposition from neighbours concerned about noise, smell and welfare.
High Slade Properties has submitted a planning application for the complex at an existing crop farm site west of Cropwell Bishop in Rushcliffe, close to the A46.
If approved, four sheds housing 55,000 indoor-reared birds each will be built, producing a total of up to 220,000 birds every 45 days.
High Slade says it will look to produce up to eight flocks every 12 months – meaning it will supply more than a million chickens a year for dinner tables across the country. But as it would be heavily aided by machinery, only two new jobs would be created.
The plans have also attracted the attention of animal rights group Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), where campaigners argue industrial indoor chicken farming is cruel.
Representatives of High Slade Properties are attempting to re-assure critics, saying it will be too far from homes to cause disruption from smell and dust.
They also insist the firm is committed to ensuring the birds will be kept in good health.
Birds would not actually be slaughtered on site, but taken to a farm in Lincolnshire.
Rushcliffe Borough Council will decide the bid and has already received almost 300 formal comments, 253 of which object to the plan.
Alan Wilson, chairman of Cropwell Bishop Parish Council, said the application had already caused heated debate and led to public meetings since it was lodged last month.
“I would say 80 per cent [of local people] are opposed to it,” he told Notts TV.
“It’s more emotional ethics rather than planning law. Any one au fait with planning law knows it’s difficult to make the case against it – my thoughts are it’s far too big for the site.”
Of the 285 public comments so far submitted, 253 are against the plan and 31 support it.
Jane Saunders, of Tithby Road, Cropwell Butler, wrote: “It is inappropriate for a green belt location, and would be an environmental disaster for Cropwell Butler. The smells and airborne pollution would destroy everyone’s enjoyment of our village and raise health concerns for the future.
“As only two jobs are to be created by the development there is minimal benefit to the local economy. I also believe this kind of chicken production to be unhealthy and unethical.”
Ian Pick, a planning consultant commissioned to draw up the application by High Slade Properties, defended the plan.
“The vast majority of chicken we consume in this country is farmed intensively. The free range market is difficult to get a contract to produce because nobody buys it,” he said.
“All we are doing is reacting to market demand and the demand for chicken is driven by the price people are prepared to pay.
“The industry has to comply with welfare standards – it is at the top of a farmer’s mind. If your chickens are not healthy you do not make any money.”
According to the British Poultry Council, 3.5 per cent of UK poultry meat production is free range, less than one per cent is organic, and 95.5 per cent is indoor-reared.
This is in contrast with the egg market – where around 50 per cent of sales are free range.
Mr Pick added the company would have to obtain a permit from the Environment Agency, which it has applied for, to agree to control odour, and had already completed an odour impact assesment.
“We are working to very, very strict environmental legislation” he added.
He added he expected the council to make a decision on the plan around September, and if approved work would start on the farm before Christmas and be completed in 2018.
The farm is already home to a grain storage facility and an anaerobic digestion plant turning gas from agricultural waste into electricity.
Peta gas collected an 7,961-signature petition and handed it to Rushcliffe Borough Council, along with a letter of objection.
“Thousands of compassionate people have spoken, and Rushcliffe Borough Council should heed their concerns for animal welfare, the environment, and the health of the community,” said PETA UK director Elisa Allen.
A spokesman for Rushcliffe Borough Council said: “Any material planning considerations raised by PETA and other parties will be taken into account when this application is determined over the next few months.”