Politicians set to discuss poultry farm proposals

Politicians set to discuss poultry farm proposals

29 July 2020

MAJOR plans for three poultry houses in the Dundrum, Seaforde and Ballynahinch areas will be discussed by local politicians today.

Members of Newry, Mourne and Down Council’s Planning Committee are set to discuss recommendations to refuse permission for developments in Seaforde and Dundrum and approve a development at the Magherahamlet Road in Ballynahinch.

In relation to plans for two poultry houses for almost 74,000 chickens in Seaforde, planners say there are an existing two houses at what is an established poultry farm site containing 74,000 birds.

Planning papers state the application is seeking approval to introduce two new houses with an established Moy Park poultry farm and is considered necessary in order to facilitate additional bird capacity on-site as part of the company’s expansion programme.

Planners say while the addition of two further poultry sheds and ancillary works would not cause “unacceptable damage”  to the rural character of the area, they were recommending that the application should be refused.

They argue that if it is allowed to proceed, the proposal would have an “unacceptable, adverse impact” on the conservation of designated sites in the area and it has not been demonstrated that the proposal will not have an adverse impact on the natural or built heritage.

At an established poultry farm at Keel Point in Dundrum, planners are refusing permission for a poultry shed capable of housing up to 8,000 birds, with planning papers indicating that the development site is located less than 50 metres from the Murlough 

Nature Reserve boundary.

Planners say a proposal for a poultry shed capable of housing up to 16,000 birds along with a feeder bin was initially lodged for the Keel Point site before it was subsequently amended for a shed capable of housing 8,000 birds. 

An existing poultry shed at the site would be removed as part of the planning application and replaced with a larger one.

The planning papers indicate that the National Trust is opposed to the proposal, arguing that it would cause “unacceptable harm to the fragile environment of the Nature Reserve”.

The Environment Agency says that while it acknowledges mitigation measures proposed by the applicant will lead to “significant reductions” in emissions form the facility, it argues that the emissions will not be sufficient to reduce deposition of nitrogen and emissions of ammonia to below the appropriate critical load and level.

Planners say the Keel Point proposal is contrary to planning policy in that, if permitted, the development would have an “unacceptable and adverse impact” and it has not been demonstrated that the proposal will not impact on the conservation of designated sites and the area’s natural heritage.

In a letter, the applicant, Mr Philip Shields of Murlough Farm, argued that planners appeared to be treating the proposal as a “brand new enterprise” and not the replacement of an existing free range poultry unit. He said the business has been in existence since 1995, with the amount of birds at the site remaining the same.

Mr Shields said the proposal is for a “modern, environmentally friendly unit” and explained that he finds himself in the “ridiculous situation” where he is trying to reduce emissions from his site by 70 per cent.

He said this is a figure which the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs agrees with, but planners are recommending that his proposal is refused, even though it is a government target to reduce emissions.

“We are looking to create efficiencies on our farm so that we will be able 

to market all our eggs locally, rather than rely on the wholesale market in England where the majority of our eggs are sent,” he said in the letter to planners.

“This new system would give significant benefits locally in both environmental and economic terms. Ammonia levels would be reduced by up to 70 percent and we would be looking to employ extra people to help with the grading of eggs and deliver them locally.”

Mr Shields said that he can continue with the older system which will emit a lot more ammonia, which is something that the government is trying to reduce.