Planning triumph for Andrew Freemantle

We got retrospective planning permission passed for the café roof; the EDDC planning committee voted 10-1 in favour of retaining it, and much to my delight one of the councillors reads Farmers Weekly and spoke for up on my behalf in the debate.

My main criticism is with the conservation officer because he recommended that the structure be removed within six months; the committee decision against his wishes could have not been more emphatic, so much power in an unelected official cannot be right. In my opinion many planning applications could be decided by putting them into the public domain for six weeks or so; if no objections received carry on.

I have come to a decision about our new finishing accommodation. It is going to be solid floor straw based – after much thought I just do not want to put my pigs in a fully slatted system. I am fully aware that the financial argument for slats is overwhelming, all I need now is planning permission to expand. I have been looking at the pre-weaning mortality we were suffering before we farrowed in crates, and then moved to the free access pens which was 17.3%. This is now 10.6% which means an extra 700 piglets a year are being weaned, if you just swap the figures with how many we are farrowing now and the born alives we are getting.

Lastly, I have put myself up for the NPA producer group elections – voting finishes on 22 February. The pig industry has a watershed year ahead with the continental stall and tether ban less than 12 months away, challenges and opportunities abound, I would relish the chance to help my industry with the same commitment that has kept me in pigs through the last 18 years.

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