Rushden chicken factory campaigners vow to fight plans as more than 2,000 object

The application was resubmitted for the vast chicken rearing unit close to the Bedfordshire border

By Alison Bagley
Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 11:52 am

Public consultation has closed on a bid for a controversial chicken factory near Rushden - but campaigners have vowed to keep fighting the broiler unit plans and tonnes of manure being dumped on surrounding fields.

Of the 2,440 comments received by North Northants Council (NNC), 2,415 have been objections with only one supporting comment in favour of resubmitted plans by Bedfordia Farms Ltd. They want 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.

Fears have also been raised that residents in neighbouring Bedfordshire, where the majority of the manure would be spread, may not be aware of the scheme as the planning authority is in Northamptonshire with Cluck Off campaign group chairman Roger Barnes voicing his concern for the villagers living over the border.

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Roger Barnes - chairman of Cluck Off

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 be covered with wood chips or other green waste to 'contain odour and poultry litter only applied to fields in appropriate quantities'.

Mr Barnes said: "It is a fallacy to think that covering huge piles of toxic manure with wood chips will prevent the smell impacting the local community. I have discussed this with a pest control expert and he informed me that animals such as badgers, foxes and rats and insects such as flies have a far better sense of smell than humans, therefore, the wood chips would have to be meters deep to negate any odour.

"These animals will burrow through the wood chip into the manure to live and breed resulting in many thousands of rats per cycle. What happens to these manure residents when the manure is spread? They will relocate to the local community and houses."

"Using DEFRA data, the factory will produce over 600 tonnes of manure per cycle (45 days approx). This will require several hundred tonnes of wood chips to cover at a minimal depth. This woodchip covering will not stop the foul stink or the vermin."

Fields earmarked for the disposal of the manure are in neighbouring Bedfordshire

In the resubmitted application Bedfordia have added a manure management plan with the waste from the shed being cleared every cycle - 49 days from chick to mature chicken.

Mr Barnes said: "This would mean that seven or eight times a year six huge chicken sheds would be cleared of 40 days plus of chicken refuse and remains and loaded onto lorries to create piles of toxic chicken manure. These would then be spread over many fields, most of them in Bedfordshire rather than Northamptonshire.

"As much of the land said to be available falls within Bedford Borough Council area and not that of North Northamptonshire, the planning authority in this case, a problem arises with enforcement outside the area of North Northamptonshire. Have the various councils in Bedfordshire been consulted? If this goes through, despite the previous conclusion that the problems with this application would outweigh any advantages, a proper management plan should be tied down by a strict planning agreement with both local authorities."

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

The land where chicken manure will be spread showing fields south of Avenue Road, Rushden at the top of the map

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.

Mr Barnes said: "We want people in Bedfordshire to be aware. It doesn't seem right that Northamptonshire will make decisions to affect the people in Bedfordshire. Most of the land where the manure is to be stored is in Bedfordshire. Bedfordia owns 6,000 acres. They have mapped and annotated to show which fields that it regards as available for the manure piles and spreading. However, if you look at the proximity to villages and local communities it is clear that a lot of the land would not be at all suitable for this.

"Any fields for spreading of chicken manure should be well away from houses, using only the more remote areas within the land holding."

An artist's impression of how the sheds might impact the surrounding fields

Cluck Off also objects to the broiler factory on animal welfare grounds.

Mr Barnes added: "Peter Bone, our MP, has assured us that the law for the welfare of animals, including chickens, is to be changed as stated in the Queen’s speech to parliament. Had it not been for Covid the laws would have been changed before now. Therefore, planning committees should not consider proposals involving such atrocious cruelty until laws have been finalised by parliament. We know from our campaigns dealing directly with the public that over 95 per cent of the population agree that the laws for the welfare of all sentient beings is a disgrace to our country."

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.”