Green light for Newtownabbey pig farm applications

Two controversial pig farm proposals were given the go-ahead at a meeting of Antrim and Newtownabbey’s Planning Committee on Monday evening.

Tuesday, 19th January 2021, 6:37 pm

It is proposed that an existing pig farm at Calhame Road, Straid, be demolished and replaced with three units housing 2,755 sows, 235 “replacement breeders” and five boars and associated underground slurry and washing stores.

The proposal will see the new facility replace six units housing 4,200 pigs on the site.

Objectors believe that as many as 89,700 pigs will be produced at this farm each year stating that “pigs will outnumber residents by two to one in Newtownabbey”.

A protest was held previously at Mossley Mill.

At the same meeting, the committee considered separate applications for retention of an existing silo building, re-contouring of land including earth mounding, retention of existing plant and machinery and amendment to planning permission for a proposed pig farm and retention of development works beyond the previously approved site boundary at Reahill Road in Newtownabbey as well as retention of  re-contouring of land including earth mounding/earth bunds.

The applications have been opposed in the area. Protestor Harriett Moore-Boyd said: “On behalf of Newtownabbey Pig Factory Campaign Group, we are upset and heartbroken.

“This effectively means the greater Newtownabbey area will have roughly two and a half pigs for every individual in the greater Newtownabbey area once all the constructions are completed and stocked.

“We will look very closely at the decision, at the rationale and all the information behind it, and see what action we can take next.”

Commenting on the Calhame Road application, planning officer Joanne McKendry said: “The principle of replacing one pig farm with another is acceptable. It will not have an adverse effect on the appearance or character of the area. The level of odour is considered acceptable.

“There are no archaeological concerns and no concerns pertaining to traffic or road safety or other quality concerns. Matters pertaining to animal welfare are not considered to be determining.”

Speaking at the meeting, Threemilewater DUP Councillor Stephen Ross queried the number of pigs and piglets per unit.

He also questioned the benefits of soil injection of pig slurry on dry soil saying: “In Northern Ireland, you would be hard pushed to find dry soil.”

He pointed out that the council’s requirement on climate change is not addressed.

Local resident Hugh Logan outlined concerns over slurry at Calhame Road, “slurry run-off”, odour and flies.

“The new site access will be on an extremely dangerous bend,” he commented.

South Antrim Alliance MLA John Blair said: “I object to the application based on concerns about the environmental impact of pig farming. Pig farming is known to produce excessive levels of ammonia.

“There is concern among residents of Newtownabbey that that it will severely affect lives of residents due to the scale of the proposal.”

Alliance Cllr Billy Webb MBE asked how there will be a “betterment in relation to ammonia” and was advised that an air scrubber system would reduce ammonia levels by removing the chemical before it is released and  also that there will be fewer pigs.

The application was passed following a vote with seven councillors in favour, two against and three abstentions.

Councillors proceeded to consider the Reahill Road applications.

Cllr Ross also voiced his objection to this application and requested a deferral after an open file viewing was not able to be facilitated.

Objector David Archibald described the lack of opportunity to have an open file viewing as “unfair”.

Applicant Derek Hall told the meeting the application is “for the betterment” of a previously approved scheme.

“I have had a few negotiations with some local residents in order to make improvements. I have had health and safety on board.”

He stated that flooding on the Carntall site, which he said, “floods at the bottom is due to a different issue”.

He noted that a fire risk assessment has been carried out and there are “no issues of biosecurity as everything is contained”.

He added: “There has been a significant period of time when I have not had a single odour or noise complaint from the site.”

He stressed that the proposal is not a case of “enlarging the site to accommodate more buildings or animals”.

These applications were approved by six votes in favour, Antrim DUP Alderman John Smyth against and five abstentions.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter.

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