Plan for £10m 'mega industrialised' free range egg farm in North York Moors set to be revised

Developers facing a wave of opposition over a proposal to build a £10m “mega industrialised” free range egg farm in the shadow of the North York Moors National Park look set to revise their plan in a bid to overcome objections.

The scheme 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, aims to help UK supermarkets change to cage-free egg production by 2025.

The decision follows Stephen Tweddle, of Fairholme Farming, Morton on Swale, near Northallerton, securing an agreement with landowners to expand their free-range egg laying activities and stating the venture could create 12 jobs in the rural area.

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Papers submitted to Hambleton District Council with the application, which has seen 13,280 people sign a petition against it, state: “The driving force behind the application is through consumer demand for free range eggs in the United Kingdom.”

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

The application stated some 13 milion birds remain housed in colony cages, so the industry was facing a substantial task to replace the colony cage production to supply supermarkets over the next three years.

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The documents stated the proposals would meet RSPCA standards for free range hens and include would see 237 acres of intensive arable production fields to grassland.

Among those supporting the plan, the National Farmers Union had said the scheme would “allow this family business to take the opportunity to tap into this expanding market, and displace imported eggs and egg products with eggs that are locally produced, high welfare and high environmental standards”.

However, echoing a host of objections, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England said the development would have unacceptable impacts on road safety and popular walking and riding routes, while and its scale and positioning within the open countryside was inappropriate.

Confirming the application has been withdrawn, an agent for Mr Tweddle said: “The applicant is looking at the issues raised by the objectors with a view to amending the scheme to address said issues ad resubmit in due course.”

In a decision notice, council officers said a fresh application would be required if at any time in the future it should be decided to revive the proposal and that it was “not possible to refund any fee” paid in connection with the application, which is thought to be a significant sum.

Residents, who declined to be named, said they were pleased the proposal had been withdrawn, and they expected developers to attempt to introduce changes in a piecemeal fashion to overcome planning hurdles.

They have pledged to battle any proposal for the site, highlighting how any large building would be clearly visible from Black Hambleton, a plateau on the western edge of the North York Moors, views from which are granted similarly high protection to the national park.

Villagers have already spent tens of thouands of pounds on legal advice and have started raising a similar amount again to battle the plans, which they say they have not been consulted over.

Solicitor Mark Harrison, of the Egg Factory Fight Group, said: “We are absolutely determined as a group to defeat any application that comes forward. The way this is being done is an abuse of the planning process and not the right way to deal with people in a beautiful part of North Yorkshire.”