Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council is to send a group of councillors to Germany on an ‘information gathering visit’ to a number of pig farms.
The trip, which is expected to cost several thousand pounds, is being organised to help the local authority’s Planning Committee reach a decision on an application for an industrial-scale pig farm on land at Reahill Road - a plan which has been met with considerable opposition from local residents and animal rights campaigners.
A delegation of members from the committee will make the trip to Visbek in Lower Saxony to visit pig farms which use air cleaning technologies - the same as those detailed in plans for the proposed development near Mossley.
At their meeting on Monday night, committee members were informed that the Reahill Road application involves proposals to install air cleaning technologies manufactured by Schulz, a Visbek-based company specialising in agricultural engineering.
“It is understood that this technology is not currently in use in any pig farms located in the United Kingdom or Ireland. Accordingly it has been suggested that a visit to the company and nearby farms, operating to varying scales but using this technology, be arranged in May to get a complete overview of the manufacture and operation of this technology,” a report presented to the meeting stated.
Members agreed that one member from each political party expected to serve on the Planning Committee during 2016/17 (likely to be five or six councillors), along with the relevant officers, undertake the visit to Visbek towards the end of May.
It’s estimated that the trip will cost around £650 per person.
Speaking after the meeting, committee vice-chairman Alderman Tom Campbell said: “It has been agreed that we, as a committee, will send representation to Germany to look at industrial pig farming.
“There has been a lot of public opposition to this proposal, so the committee needs to be properly informed and have all the relevant information before we make a decision as it’s important that we get it right.”
At the end of last year, applicant Derek Hall submitted amended plans for the Reahill Road site, reducing the proposed number of pigs on the farm from 30,000 to just over 15,000. However, objectors are still opposing construction of the intensive livestock installation, siting a number of concerns about possible pollution, road safety issues, smells, visual impact and animal welfare.
It’s understood council officers are hoping to schedule a Pre-Determination Hearing on the pig farm application for shortly after the Visbek visit, possibly in late May or early June.
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