Poultry producers struggle to get planning permission

Securing planning permission for new poultry sheds is an increasing challenge, with objectors becoming more sophisticated and planning committees more hard-nosed.

Would-be applicants, be they broiler growers, turkey farmers, pullet rearers or egg producers, therefore need to pay careful attention to process, ensuring every box is ticked before submitting an application, says planning consultant Ian Pick of Ian Pick Associates.

And even then they should be prepared for rejection and the need to go to appeal.

“The first step is to arrange for a site visit by your consultant to assess the project’s suitability,” he advises. “This is so that he or she can check for things like landscape impacts, whether the Environment Agency and the Highways Agency are likely to be happy and what the effects on neighbours might be.”

Assessing the project’s compliance with IPPC requirements is absolutely critical, he adds. “The two sectors – planning and IPPC – don’t really talk to each other. It is quite possible to get planning permission for a poultry unit and then fail to get an IPPC permit. If you spend £50,000 on your planning application, but don’t get a permit to operate it, that’s a very expensive problem.”

Most applications for broiler expansions will also need an Environmental Impact Assessment – a statutory requirement for any unit with over 85,000 birds. This involves detailed assessments of noise, odour, ammonia, ecology, transport, drainage, flood risk and landscape impact.

“As long as your detailed assessments for the Environmental Impact Assessment section comply with the permitting requirements, especially in terms of meeting set thresholds for ammonia and odour, your planning application has a good chance of success.”

Common problems with planning applications

  • Lack of understanding about poultry farming.
  • Inconsistent approach by local planning authorities.
  • Public opposition and internet-based campaigns.
  • Local politics.

The impact on neighbours is also essential to assess, though Mr Pick advises that the old 400m rule, which limited the distance new sheds had to be from neighbours, has been waived in new planning rules. “You just have to demonstrate that your proposal will be acceptable in terms of residential amenity.”

It will also be necessary to discuss the plans with the Local Highway Authority to get approval for any impacts on local transport.

“The best approach is to try to agree as many of the aspects of the planning application as possible with the statutory consultees prior to submission,” says Mr Pick.

Common problems

Once all this has been done, it is time to make the planning submission.

“This is where the fun begins. With these sorts of planning applications we are getting more and more problems with lack of understanding from the planning authorities, inconsistent approaches and adverse public reaction.”

Mr Pick highlights a number of recent applications he has made, including one for a broiler unit in the Midlands, where everything had been agreed with the relevant bodies prior to submission. “Once the application went in, a resident’s action group was formed and significant numbers of objections were received from local residents, the vegetarian and vegan societies and an animal rights lobby.

“We ended up walking into a planning committee with over 6,000 objections for what was literally just two broiler sheds. We had complied with all the requirements, yet the planning committee voted to refuse the application by 12 votes to nil.”

A subsequent appeal was successful, but it added on a substantial amount of time and cost to the process.

In another case in Wales, about 260 people objected and the committee narrowly voted to refuse the application, contrary to the planning officer’s recommendation. The committee then spent a considerable time deciding what reasons for refusal to place on the decision notice.

“There were no statutory objections to the scheme from any of the consultees. We ended up with some very thin reasons for refusal relating to listed buildings, landscape impact and tourism.”

Again, the case went to appeal and the planning committee has since withdrawn its reasons for objection.

Online objections

According to Mr Pick, internet-based campaigns are a growing problem.

He also points to regionalisation, with some parts of the country worse than others in terms of the effectiveness of objectors and the attitudes of planning committees.

There is also a problem with individual processors looking to expand and take on new units within a 50-mile radius of their factories. Objectors are getting wise to this and, once one application has a campaign running against it, it is relatively easy for other groups to piggy-back on this and share their tactics.

Despite all this, Mr Pick points out that 70% of applications do go through with little fuss.

How to maximise your chances of success

  • Use a planning consultant with relevant experience
  • Agree as much as possible with the statutory consultees before submission
  • Review consultation responses online regularly and respond as required
  • Attend the planning committee to present your case

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