Objections to plans for 'industrial-scale' free range egg farm home to 192,000 hens overlooking North York Moors

Plans to create a “gigantic” free range egg farm featuring three 260 metre-long buildings in open countryside have been condemned as “an industrial installation where the raw materials are alive”.

The village of Thornton le Beans, near Northallerton

Stephen Tweddle, of Fairholme Farming, has asked Hambleton District Council for consent to introduce 192,000 hens across 237 acres of arable farmland east of Pillrigg Lane, Thornton le Beans, near Northallerton and buildings costing a total of £10m.

Papers lodged with the planning authority state the plan would see the expanse of fields become grassland and feature at least 12 acres of woodland to meet RSPCA requirements for free range hens.

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Agents for Mr Tweddle said despite the proposed development, being close to the lost medieval village of Cotcliffe and the possible site of the York to the River Tees Roman road, there was a low likelihood of archaeological remains on the site. They added the business would create up to 12 full-time jobs in an industry facing strong demand as UK supermarkets have made a commitment to change to cage-free egg production by 2025.

The proposed business would account for a significant increase in the country’s free range egg supply, as there are 24 million free range birds nationwide.

The mid-Hambleton district area is already known for its free range egg industry, with major producers such as James Potter, near Thirsk.

A spokesman for Mr Tweddle said: “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. The Government has highlighted the need to promote home food production and there is pressure to produce more food at a price the consumer can afford to pay.”

However, within weeks of the proposals being lodged some residents have voiced strong opposition, saying the huge buildings would ruin the countryside overlooked by the North York Moors’ western escarpment.

One objector, Robert Birch, said the plan would lead to many unsuitable lorries on the nearby lanes and quiet villages.

He added: “The facility is gigantic. Whilst it is described as an agricultural enterprise, in reality it is an industrial installation where the raw materials are alive. This scale of this industrial facility is entirely unsuitable for such a quiet, peaceful rural community. This is a factory by any other name.”