Pig farm plan to be reduced in size

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Plans for a proposed large-scale pig farm at Reahill Road near Mossley are due to be reduced in scale to involve fewer animals, the Times has learned.

Members of Antrim and Newtownabbey Council’s Planning Committee were advised on Monday that the applicant, Derek Hall, is due to submit an amended scheme, reducing the scale, in the near future.

The original application for an intensive unit capable of housing up to 30,000 pigs met with significant opposition from local residents and animal rights activists, including Queen guitarist Brian May.

Speaking to the Newtownabbey Times after the meeting, which he did not attend, Mr Hall revealed that the amended plans would involve fewer animals, although he did not reveal the scale of the reduction.

“The amendments will help to reduce the concerns of animal welfare activists even more,” he stated.

“The pig farm was always designed to be high welfare to RSPCA standard. We decided to reduce the size of the plan as we are doing a lot of things to satisfy the DOE.”

Mr Hall said he was keen for the predetermination hearing on the plans to take place so that he can air his side of the story.

“We are working with independent bodies such as the NIEA, that’s what we are working towards,” he continued.

“I am determined to go ahead with the project. A lot of people have got misinformation and they think it’s a slaughter house, but we are working with the RSPCA to design this to be high welfare standards.”

A planned meeting between Mr Hall and the objectors, due to have taken place at New Mossley Elim Church in June, was shelved as Mr Hall says he feared it would have turned into “a lynch mob”. And he claimed that his request for a meeting with a committee representing the objectors was refused.

At Monday’s committee meeting in Mossley Mill, planning officer Barry Diamond told councillors that the applicant intended to submit the amended proposal in October or November of this year, at which point it would be re-advertised and the objectors consulted, followed by a four-week consultation period.

“We estimate that the predetermination hearing won’t take place before January,” Mr Diamond added.

The council has so far received 798 letters of objection to the plan and only two in support. An online petition opposing the proposed development has attracted more than 195,000 signatories.

DUP alderman John Smyth asked whether all the objections would have to be lodged again, or whether they would stand.

“The objections will stand,” Mr Diamond replied.

He added: “Some people may wish to revisit their objection, as there will be more information. For example, if there was an issue of flooding on the site, they may wish not to object as there is a more detailed plan.

“Or they may wish to reaffirm their objection, or have additional concerns that they may wish to note. We will invite comment.”

Councillor Stephen Ross asked how all the objectors would be notified of the amended application, and whether they would be notified by letter. Mr Diamond said that the planning department would “endeavour to get the message to as many people who want to be involved in the application” as it can.

“There are a significant number of objections,” he noted. “With the online petitions, we are not able to reach those individuals and given the high cost it may be better to put an ad in the newspaper.

“There were over 100,000 objections, so it would not be cost-efficient to write to every individual. Where they have left an email address, we will try to get back to them that way.”

Cllr Ross replied that the letters of objection would be more important than other objections, such as those from people in the US and Canada.

The council report added that officers consider it would be premature to hold a predetermination hearing in this case until the revised scheme has been consulted upon.

Ald Smyth’s proposal that the council note the report was seconded by Cllr Beatty and agreed by members.