RESIDENTS have likened a farmer’s revised plan to create an £8.6m free range egg farm overlooked by the North York Moors National Park to “shuffling deckchairs on the Titanic”.
Documents submitted to Hambleton District Council show Morton on Swale farmer Stephen Tweddle has downsized his scheme for farmland near Thornton le Beans from 192,000 hens in three 9,468sq m buildings to 128,000 birds in two 9,762 sq m buildings clad in olive green polyester-coated sheeting.
The papers state the Pillrigg Lane venture would see up to nine full-time jobs created and 158 acres of arable farmland land being changed to grassland for the ranging of the hens, and as part of RSPCA requirements for free range hens, the planting of eight acres of native trees.
Other changes to the plans include an access lane to Allerton Wath Road, a reduction in the buildings’ height and the introduction of a living sedum roof, emission filters and solar panels.
The buildings will feature conveyor belts to move eggs from hens’ perches to packing areas. The plans detail how manure produced by the hens will drop through holes onto belts fitted with an air-drying system to move it to a pelleting press and bagging area, ready for sale as a sustainable fertiliser.
Agents for Mr Tweddle stated as supermarkets had committed to stocking cage-free eggs by 2025 the venture would contribute to food production and national food security.
The site of a proposed egg farm near Thornton le Beans
They wrote: “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.
“The proposed development has been sited to minimise impact on the character and appearance of the countryside. The location is not subject to any landscape protection designations and is outside of the green belt.”
The changes follow a wave of opposition to Mr Tweddle’s original plans, which saw more than 13,000 people sign a petition against it.
Solicitor Mark Harrison, of the Egg Factory Fight Group, said local opposition to the scheme had grown in recent months as residents of Borrowby and Knayton had become aware of the plans.
He said those behind the proposal had 12 months to amend the first application, which had been “demolished” by a consultants’ report and hundreds of objections, but residents’ concerns had not been allayed.
Mr Harrison said: “They knew it was going to be dismissed, but they withdrew in October and have come back three months later, simply shuffling the deckchairs on the Titanic.
“We are pro-farming. This is just the wrong place to put a chicken factory. We are ready and fully confident of getting it dismissed this time and have the financial backing to do it.”