Controversial chicken farm plans for Rushden back on the table as residents say 'cluck off'

If successful the application would see a factory farm in fields on the edge of Rushden

By Alison Bagley
Tuesday, 31st August 2021, 9:12 am

Campaigners against plans for a controversial chicken factory near Rushden which could raise more than two million birds a year have vowed to fight a new planning application.

Plans by Bedfordia Farms Ltd have been resubmitted to build a broiler rearing unit with six linked poultry buildings and ancillary structures on land north-east of Westwood Anaerobic Digestion Plant in Bedford Road, Rushden.

Original plans in 2017 attracted huge levels of opposition, including from the Cluck Off campaign group, MPs Peter Bone and Tom Pursglove, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

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Roger Barnes and Richard Scarfe

The application was withdrawn in February 2018 but Bedfordia Farms has submitted newly revised air and manure plans to address environmental concerns.

Cluck Off chairman Roger Barnes said: "The Cluck Off wars carry on where we left off. It's rearing its ugly head again. We want to stop this from happening. Residents do not want it. We need people to object now in writing to these plans."

Figures for the number of chickens which would pass through the broiler unit each year have been revealed as part of the new application with the proposed broiler unit operating on a 49 day cycle so that, over the course of a calendar year, an average 7.45 flocks would pass through the broiler unit.

The broiler unit is designed to raise 2,339,000 birds per year with the birds' current animal welfare legislation being allowed to be kept at 22 birds per square metre.

The location of the proposed unit in red and Avenue Road Rushden in yellow

In the Queen's Speech this May, the government announced its Action Plan for Animal Welfare committing to recognise animal sentience - the capacity of animals to have feelings, including pain and suffering - in law through the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill.

Newton Bromswold resident Mr Barnes said: "Animal welfare was in the Queen's Speech. Having 22 chickens in one square metre is absurd. It's alright when they are chicks but when they get to 4 or 5lbs each there's no space.

"We've been told that animal welfare is not a planning issue, but if they brought down the number to 15 per square metre it might make it uneconomic.

"I used to keep free-range hens and the smell of the manure and ammonia is horrendous, with rats and smell. It's a massive site and if they do build it it will be a concrete jungle."

Cluck Off campaigners Roger Barnes and Richard Scarfe

The application 18/01284/FUL shows plans for the construction and operation of a broiler rearing unit with six linked poultry buildings and ancillary structures comprising fifteen grain silos, three crumb feed silos, three feed blending houses, two water tanks with an associated pump house, two gas storage tanks, an electricity substation, switch room and standby generator with fuel tank, a weigh room, a welfare block, a cold store and incinerator, a boiler house and storage building, a security gatehouse and associated hardstanding, with boundary fencing, landscape, planting and flood attenuation works and an upgrading of an existing vehicular access track extending to the south-west to an existing anaerobic digestion plant access road.

The original application was withdrawn following a recommendation for refusal that said: “By virtue of its location, scale, layout and design, the proposal would give rise to significant adverse landscape and visual effects which would be readily appreciated from public rights of way in the locality. The identified harm could not be satisfactorily mitigated and the proposal is therefore contrary to North Northamptonshire Joint Core Strategy Policy...furthermore, the proposal would not satisfy the ambition of the framework to recognise…the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside. The local planning authority recognises the public benefits of the proposal, however these do not outweigh the identified harm.”

The new addition to the plans deals with the environmental impact of manure, dust and air quality using 'odour risk assessment and odour dispersion modelling' that predicted that there would be 'no breaches of the relevant odour assessment benchmarks at sensitive receptor locations'.

Plans show that piles of manure from the chickens would be piled in heaps 'at least 150m from boundaries with residential properties'. The in-field storage heaps would being covered with wood chips or other green waste to 'contain odour and only applying poultry litter to fields in appropriate quantities'.

How the factory units could look

Multiple fields between Rushden and Bedford have been earmarked for the disposal of the poultry waste.

Richard Scarfe, Cluck Off secretary said: "The spreading of manure is going to be horrendous with the smell.

"I couldn't sleep at night if I was going to build something like this on the doorstep. Nobody wants the smell. Would you want to buy a house with the smell? The price of houses will go down. We know that 95 per cent of the population don't want it."

The neighbour consultation ends on Monday, September 27 2021. To see the application click here.

The fields that could have manure spread on them
The manure map