Sunday, 22 March 2015

Not in your backyard

Most planning applications attract objections regardless of the quality of design or the merit of the proposed use. My recollection is that an application has to be publicised on site and that those affected are given the opportunity to have their views considered. Consequently within communities, be they rural or urban, it is unlikely that anything proceeds without this consideration. At rural locations outside communities it seems things can turn out rather differently.

Within the last few days a proposal to develop a poultry unit just outside Sedgeford has hit the fan in a big way. The term 'poultry unit' is one way to describe it. To most this is an industrial process, an animal factory housing over 300,000 birds in a facility which I understand is large on a national scale. Almost unbelievably it would seem that, despite the application being lodged over two months ago, until the last week most of those who live in the villages most closely related - Sedgeford, Fring and Docking - were not aware of it.

These communities are not immediate neighbours to the proposal but their lives would almost inevitably be affected by lorries servicing the site and potential environmental issues yet it seems that in the absence of public consultation, the majority were unaware. A cursory look on-line at the planning application raises further issues. Sedgeford Parish Council were consulted and somewhat strangely, given the level of adverse reaction that has now surfaced, they would have appear to have supported the application. Not only does this raise the question how representative they are of their constituents but how their consideration was not widely known.

Environmentally, there are significant issues raised by this type and scale of unit. The Environment Agency have already flagged up the site's location in relation to primary aquifers and the need to manage run-off. Slightly more alarmist, at least one of those now alerted to the application has very clearly stated the potential hazards relating to this scale of unit population in terms of use of and transmission of anti-biotic resistant genes, not just from the ventilation of the site but from the lorries moving birds in and out of the site.

This proposal is not in our backyard but it does highlight how easy it is for this type of proposal to proceed outside communities. It is also not alone. Much smaller in scale but realistically described as 'giant' rearing sheds for ducks at Fulmodeston near Fakenham attracted opposition from residents and the three neighbouring Parish Councils, despite which it was approved by the District Council last Friday.

Further afield and utterly different in type of use, a licensing application for wedding parties in a rural location has been made in advance of a planning application for the use, which seems a way in which a potentially disruptive use might make progress without wider consideration - in a way that would be unlikely in an urban context.

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