£10m 'mega industralised' egg farm in Yorkshire garners unprecedented reaction with 12,500 people signing petition

A proposal to build a £10m “mega industrialised” free range egg farm over open countryside has seen an unprecedented reaction, with 12,500 people signing a petition against it and villagers hiring in consultants to battle the proposal.

Signs protesting against the planned egg farm have been placed around the area

More than 200 letters of objection have been lodged with Hambleton District Council over the proposal by Steven Tweddle of Fairholme Farming, to introduce 192,000 hens in three 9,468sq m buildings on 237 acres of arable farmland, east of Pillrigg Lane, Thornton Le Beans, near Northallerton.

Planning statements which were published in March state the enterprise would create up to 12 full-time jobs in an industry facing strong demand as UK supermarkets have committed to change to cage-free egg production by 2025.

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An agent for Mr Tweddle said the supermarkets' decision had left "a substantial task of replacing the colony cage production with free range production over the next four years".

He added the development would also fulfil an important social role. The agent stated: "The reality of feeding the population of the UK in a sustainable way means that it is necessary for there to be construction of more modern, increasingly efficient buildings."

Gayle Davidson, of Thornton le Beans Action Group, said such was the strength of feeling among the community that a £10,000 fighting fund had been established to hire in consultants who had helped see off plans for a similar free range egg farm in Cornwall.

She said: "Despite the stress and financial strain of Covid, normal local people have come out to support a fierce opposition due to the completely inappropriate nature and location of the plan. Hambleton council has informed us the community response has not been witnessed before."

Many of the objections lodged over the proposals highlight concerns over the impact on the landscape, ecology and road safety, while others question the need for such a large-scale venture and the forecast growth in demand for free range eggs.

A number of residents, including Reverend Denise Williamson, have claimed the development could have a significant impact on villagers' health. She said: "As minister of Thornton-Le-Beans Methodist Church, I am concerned for the safety and physical and mental wellbeing of the village if the proposed egg unit is approved."

However, the applicant has stated the units would be fully compliant with UK odour standards, the noise impact of the plant and transport-related activities would be low, dust would not be an issue and the frequent removal of manure would ensure the units would not become a breeding ground for flies.

Nevertheless, resident David Brown said the noise, smell and possible light pollution from the egg farm could make life intolerable for residents.

He added: "These enormous food factories, together with roads, hardstanding and ancillary works will have the appearance of an industrial estate on the outskirts of an urban conurbation.

"They are totally out of keeping with the more traditional forms of agriculture in the area. The impact they will have on the beautiful Cod Beck Valley will exceed that of the electricity pylons, the erection of which caused such an outcry in the local community."