Concerns over plans for a ‘mega-factory farm’ which could house 540,000 chickens have been raised at Westminster.
Bedfordia Farms Ltd has applied to build 10 poultry buildings and associated infrastructure on land north east of the Westwood AD Plant in Bedford Road, Rushden.
If approved, each building would have a capacity of 54,000 birds with a total capacity of 540,000 birds.
The plans have attracted opposition from individuals and organisations, as well as town and parish councils in the area.
And MP for Wellingborough and Rushden Peter Bone secured a debate on the issue at Westminster Hall yesterday (Wednesday).
Four members of the Cluck Off group fighting the plans joined Mr Bone in London to hear him speak on the matter, including referring to the proposed poultry farm as a ‘mega-factory farm.’
During the debate, Mr Bone said: “This large-scale plant will be more like a chicken factory than a farm.
“Under the proposals, 10 sheds and a total of 540,000 birds would be crammed on to one site.
“Given that there are only around 247,000 indoor-reared meat chickens in the whole of Northamptonshire, this site in my constituency would represent a substantial increase, and it is unacceptable.
“Local residents are quite rightly appalled by the proposed new plant.
“The fantastic ‘Cluck Off’ campaign has campaigned energetically ever since the plans were made public, and I know that a number of the leaders of the campaign are watching this debate closely.”
Mr Bone raised numerous concerns he has about the plans, including welfare of the chickens, enviromental impact, disruption to the local community and odour problems.
In response, George Eustice, the minister of state for the department of environment, food and rural affairs, said: “The proposal is currently the subject of a planning application, and it will not be considered by East Northamptonshire Council’s planning committee until December 2017 - next month - at the earliest.
“My hon. Friend is familiar with processes and aware that this is a planning application and not an issue that either DEFRA or ministers would lead on in the first instance.”
However, the minister added that the animal welfare issues raised by Mr Bone are issues they will be considering in the context of future agricultural policy.
Roger Barnes from the Cluck Off campaign group was one of those invited to join Mr Bone in London yesterday and he said: “The MP is backing us to the hilt, which has to be a good thing.” Mr Barnes said the application is talking about ‘an awful lot of chickens’ and added: “I have given leaflets out in Rushden High Street, Higham Ferrers Market Square and at the bonfire night and nobody is aware that this sort of density of birds is allowed in the UK.”
For more details about the application, search for 17/01328/FUL on the planning page of East Northants Council’s website.