Dovecote Park meat plant in Yorkshire which supplies Burger King and Waitrose set to expand despite Green Belt fears

A firm which supplies Whoppers to Burger King, beef to Waitrose and Marks & Spencer and introduced the first fresh meatball to the retail sector is seeking to expand its factory on a designated Green Belt site, claiming it has met the “very special circumstances” required to do so.

Dovecote Park, which has operated in open countryside near Pontefract since 1997, is seeking consent from North Yorkshire Council on Tuesday (July 11) to increase the size of its steel-clad dry aged chiller building to about 924sq m, to increase efficiency and provide a better service for its customers.

A meeting of the Conservative-run authority’s planning committee will consider the scheme off Bankwood Road, Stapleton, following repeated criticisms that it puts the interests of big business ahead of the needs of residents or the environment, particularly in the former Selby district area.

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Last month, residents said they were “being sacrificed on the altar of unfettered greed” over a proposed 44-acre quarry on farmland close to the A1(M) and A63 Selby Fork junction and highlighted how the council had approved every major minerals and waste proposal in the Green Belt over two decades.

Prince Charles visiting Dovecote Park in 2013Prince Charles visiting Dovecote Park in 2013
Prince Charles visiting Dovecote Park in 2013

National planning policy states the purposed of the Green Belt is to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas, safeguard countryside and encourage the recycling of derelict and other urban land.

A planning officer’s report to the committee underlines the proposed development is “inappropriate development within the Green Belt” which should not be approved except in “very special circumstances”, but states no objections have been received over the proposal.

The report adds: “Such very special circumstances need to be unique and compelling.”

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However, in its application, agents for Dovecote Park, which employs about 700 staff at the site and its other plant in Lincolnshire, state the extension is required to be in operation by Christmas “to respond to the additional volume required for customers”, such as Hello Fresh, Waitrose and Hawksmoor steakhouses.

The firm’s justification statement adds: “Purchase of a new site or leasing would add a prohibitive additional cost compared to the current site that is owned by Dovecote Park. When all these additional costs are analysed, the project is not economically viable.

“Additionally storing the produce off site would not be viable either as it would end up being moved twice, once from Dovecote Park to the storage site and then again to the customer. This would clearly be inefficient and expensive.”

The firm said the development would create up to six jobs and help support the significant employment levels on site and help to improve the resilience of the existing business to market trends in a proportionate and sensitive way, thus bringing significant economic benefits to the area.

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The officer’s report to the committee states how the current dry aged chiller is not large enough for operational needs as the cost of living crisis has seen increased demand for dry aged beef as people buy this to eat at home rather than going out to restaurants.

The proposed extension would enable the increased demand for this product to be met.

The report states planning officers believe “that very special circumstances have been demonstrated which clearly outweigh the harm to the Green Belt” and planning permission should be granted, subject to conditions and referral to the Secretary of State.

The site was once part of the Stapleton Park estate, which during the 1700s was owned by the Lascelles family of Harewood House. They built a grand mansion and landscaped the park, but it then passed through several owners until the last, the Barton family, sold up in 1919. In the 1930s, it was bought by the government as a planned location for a mental hospital for the West Riding, but this never happened and the hall was eventually demolished and the estate broken up and sold in the 1950s.