The damage to local communities and the environment from giant poultry farms in Shropshire would outweigh any economic rewards they would bring, a public inquiry has been told.
Senior Shropshire Council planning officer Peter Walker said the arguments against proposals to build four sheds housing 176,000 birds on Flemming’s Field in Acton Pigot, near Shrewsbury, were “more persuasive” than any economic benefits it would bring to the rural economy.
He was speaking at the inquiry in Shrewsbury into whether Shropshire Council’s decision last year to reject the proposals by Mr Owen, of JG Owen and Co, should be overturned by the Government.
The appeal is being heard by town planner Christine Thorby, who has been appointed by the Department of Communities and Local Government. Yesterday she quizzed Mr Walker on the economic benefits of the scheme.
He said: “The council recognises that the proposals would have a trickle down effect on service and transport businesses so there are undoubtedly economic benefits.”
But he added: “I feel the adverse impact of the proposals unfortunately have to take precedence in this case. The other issues of concern are more persuasive. I acknowledge that there would be a small benefit, but compared to the acknowledged impact of both social and environmental aspects the feeling was there would be very little or no benefit to the scheme.”
Earlier this week concerns were raised about the number and size of lorries that would be required at the site, which the inquiry heard was six miles away from the main road down “narrow country lanes”.
But farmer John Owen’s legal representative Deborah Sharples told the inquiry that refusing the application on grounds of traffic-generation would make it difficult for the rural economy to progress. There are number of large-scale chicken farms in Shropshire, and she said it was vital that objections about small increases in traffic should not stifle progress in a rural county that relies on agriculture.
She made the comments during a cross-examination of Shropshire Council witness Sandy Macdonald, from civil engineer consultants AF Macdonald & Partners. He told the hearing that the site was “almost as remote as one can get”.
Mrs Sharples told the inquiry that Shropshire Council’s own highway officers had not objected to the scheme at the planning stage.
A site visit of Flemming’s Field was due to be carried out today. The inquiry is due to recommence later this summer.