Piglets© John Alexander/Robert Harding/REX/Shutterstock

Following months of delay, a controversial pig farm in Northern Ireland has finally received planning permission to build a unit for 15,000 finishers.

Farmer Derek Hall had originally suggested building a unit for 30,000 pigs on the Rea Hill Road near Newtownabbey, but revised plans have now been passed for a unit half that size.

The permission was passed by councillors, some of them farmers, at a sitting of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council planning committee.

See also: Seven things to consider with pig planning

Residents had voiced huge concern over the project and said the unit would produce too much slurry and smell.

In total, there were 856 individual letters of objection and 200,000 people had previously signed an online petition.

Celebrities including Queen guitarist and animal welfare campaigner Brian May as well as actors Martin Shaw and Jenny Seagrove had also publicly opposed the pig unit.

Angry opponents were present in the council chamber for the meeting and protested afterwards outside, some confronting the councillors.

The Ulster Unionist Party’s Roderick Swann was one of nine councillors who backed the proposal.

He said: “I’m a farmer myself who supports the agri-industry and I was quite satisfied that all the necessary welfare issues were addressed.

“The planning case officer and all the consultees were quite happy with everything that was proposed.”

Asked if he understood the strong opposition, both from locals and those not so local, Mr Swann said: “I can and I can’t. There was an awful lot of ‘not in my backyard’.

“A lot of these animal rights folks, they’re entitled to their opinion, but I think they’re on the wrong track sometimes. This will be the most modern pig farm, not only in Ireland, but also Great Britain.”