Pig farm protesters scenting victory

MORE than 100 villagers are objecting to plans for a giant pig farm in the Yorkshire Wolds.

Yorkwold Pigpro Ltd has applied to build two finishing units housing 4,000 pigs just over half a mile from the centre of Burton Fleming and on the scenic route to Grindale.

Burton Fleming is a farming village but there have been 108 objections from residents who say the facility will be too close to the community.

The pigs would be kept on slatted concrete in units just 5m short of the length of an international football field with their waste being pumped into an adjacent 6m high slurry store.

There are concerns about the smell from slurry being spread on fields and worries that it will contaminate an ancient watercourse, the Gypsey Race, which runs through the Wolds.

Villagers have been shown a similar unit at Watton, but parish councillor Malcolm Thompson said although what they had seen was "spot on", he still thought it was in the wrong place.

John Coleman, who will be addressing a planning meeting in Beverley next Thursday on behalf of the objectors, and whose family has farmed in the village for at least 150 years, said: "I am doing what I am doing very reluctantly on behalf of the village.

"Put simply it is down to location, location, location. We feel it is far too close. It may be within the regulations but occasionally you have to use common sense. The units will be somewhat of an eyesore and the slurry tank, which will be higher and coloured blue, will be visible for years before any of the trees start growing around it."

Mr Coleman, who also visited the unit at Watton, said he was pleasantly surprised by how clean it was and the lack of smell – but it was also two and a half miles from the village and the slurry tank was hidden from view.

He said he would never farm pigs on concrete slats. "I accept it is part of life but I don't think it is friendly to pigs. It is absolutely intensive and it is not something I could do personally."

He added: "This is a tourism area and using a dribble bar to spread slurry in the Spring will make the fields stink. This is a tourism area. We have two caravan sites in the village and we just feel this is too close."

Other objections have come from the East Yorkshire Chalk Rivers Trust which is concerned about slurry spreading close to the Gypsey Race and the cumulative effect of intensive animal rearing in the area, as well as from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, which points out that the quality of groundwater in the East Riding is already considered poor.

Joe Dewhirst, joint managing director of Yorkwold Pigpro Ltd, which has 6,000 sows across 25 sites in East Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire, said he had tried to address concerns. "I realise there's been a lot of objections and I've taken them all very seriously.

"A lot of the objections in my opinion are based on misconceptions of modern pig units and spreading techniques.

"The people who came to Watton appreciated that a modern pig unit doesn't smell the same way as one of 20 years ago and slurry techniques are far more neighbour-friendly."

He said the buildings were "high welfare" and "a step in the right direction". "I know a lot of people are against concrete slats but it is an efficient way of producing pig meat. Everyone has to eat and eat at a reasonable price. "Forty per cent of the pig production in the UK is outdoor – but for the everyday consumer there's a need to produce pig meat at a lower cost."

Planners are recommending refusal saying the site is on rising ground "where it could not fail to be a prominent feature" and odours from slurry spreading would have an "unacceptable and detrimental" impact on residents.

The decision is due to be made by East Riding Council's planning committee next Thursday.

However Mr Dewhirst said the planning officer had overruled other advisers including the council's landscape officer, who had no objections.

He said: "We are not particularly hopeful for next week. We will definitely consider appealing if rejected."