"Cluck off chicken factory": Joy as giant egg farm appeal is rejected

Residents' placards in Thornton le Beans Picture: Stuart Minting
Residents' placards in Thornton le Beans Picture: Stuart Minting

Planning inspector Simon Dean found the benefits of Morton on Swale free range egg farmer Steven Tweddle’s revised proposal to build two 9,762sq m buildings east of Pillrigg Lane, Thornton le Beans, near Northallerton, did not outweigh the significant impacts it would have on residents and the landscape.

The ruling comes almost ten months after Hambleton District Council’s planning committee concluded the £10m development, bringing 128,000 laying hens onto 158 acres of land, was not suited to the Cod Beck valley.

Agents for Mr Tweddle, who had scaled back his initial ambition by a third after objections, had argued the public benefits of the proposal would be extensive, including helping supermarkets’ commitment to end caged colony production.

However, the proposal attracted fierce opposition from residents of the surrounding area, with 12,500 people signing a petition against it and villagers erecting placards outside their homes. In total the villagers spent £66,000 on consultants to battle the proposal.

In his appeal decision, Mr Dean said the scale, location and presence of the proposed buildings on the site would have “an unacceptable effect on the character and appearance of the area”.

He stated: “In this proposal, there are public benefits including initial capital investment, the creation of nine full-time jobs, an annual economic contribution, the supply of agricultural fertiliser and a contribution towards domestic food security.

“However, there is no detailed evidence before me to suggest that these benefits can only be delivered by this development in this location.”

The ruling highlighted while the proposal sought to control foul smells from the sheds through the use of chemical air-cleaners, the devices were not certified for use in a free-range unit, where pop-holes would be open from 8am to dusk each day to allow birds free access to the ranging area.

He added the proposal would also cause harm to the significance of designated heritage assets, the amenity of users of nearby roads including public rights of way, and could cause harm to water quality, thereby conflicting significantly with the area’s development plan.

Mark Harrison, of the Egg Factory Fight Group, said the inspector’s decision represented “an almighty relief for residents after having had the proposal hanging over their heads severely affecting them for two and a half years”.

He said: “The decision was based purely on common sense. We are pro-farming. There’s a place to put an egg factory and this was not it. No appeal should have been made as shown by the determination of the planning inspector.

“The community has pulled together in Thornton le Beans, Crosby and Cotcliffe Bank.”