• Compelling reasons to reject large industrial pig unit

    5th March 2012 | News | Claire
  • I am the adjacent ward member and it is my preliminary view that this application be REFUSED.

    I list the reasons below:

    1. Habitats Regulations
    The land in question is next to some of the most sensitive landscapes in the country – the pebblebed heaths – both at Venn Ottery Common and Aylesbeare Common (part of which is in my ward).

    The proposal’s increased ammonia and nitrogen outputs have the potential to considerably damage the heathland and the rich biodiversity that it supports by increasing soil fertility which risks changing the heath’s vegetation, encouraging more common, vigorous species which would out-compete the rarer specialist heathland plants and associated wildlife. 

    The pebblebed heaths are one of the few areas in the country where the Dartford warblers and nightjars can be found in nationally important numbers, and the vegetation changes that could result from increased nitrogen pollution could jeopardise the heaths’ ability to continue to support these species.

    Given that the pebblebed heaths in this area are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Areas of Protection (SPA) and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), such a large and damaging industrial development which by its nature would generate significant amounts of nitrogen and ammonia should be considered likely to have a likely significant effect on the SAC and SPA. 

    As such, under Regulation 61 of the Habitats Regulations, East Devon District Council must make an appropriate assessment to determine the proposal’s impacts on the conservation objectives of those sites. 

    It is not apparent that information to support such an assessment has been provided with the application and it is not therefore possible for EDDC to undertake an appropriate assessment.  If such assessment was undertaken and it concluded that it was not possible to ascertain that the proposed pig unit would not have an adverse effect on the integrity of the SPA and SAC, it could only be granted consent if it had imperative reasons of overriding public interest and there were no alternative solutions to it. 
    Such a development would not meet these tests and so could not be granted consent. 

    I note that the RSPB has indicated that they are ‘extremely concerned’ about the impact on the pebblebed heaths and have sought additional information to be able to take a view on the risks of nitrogen and ammonia to the surrounding internationally important heathlands.  Natural England also is unhappy about the application.

    2. Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
    The land is also in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and in my view, is one of the most beautiful and precious parts of countryside for miles around. 

    It is in a highly visible spot and the industrial development would be seen for miles around, including from the East Devon Way and other public areas such as bridleways and the nearby highway.  Therefore the proposed development is contrary to countryside protection policies both in the adopted Local Plan and in the new draft Local Plan.

    3. Flooding
    The Environment Agency is concerned about the flooding risks to the pig unit itself, following intense or prolonged rainfall. The EA states: “If the unit is subject to such flooding the impact upon the unit and for their parties downstream could be serious.”

    4.  Odour
    The residents living at Higher Metcombe (in my ward) are the closest to the site.  They are very concerned about the potential odours being emitted from the units.  Their fears are based on feedback from residents living next to a similar industrial pig unit elsewhere in the district.  I would like this aspect of the application to be carefully looked into.

    5. Economic claims
    The applicant’s claims in his justification for the development should be investigated fully.  In the penultimate paragraph Mr Down claims he will have to close the business if he does not get permission to build his indoor pig unit. 

    Clearly, the only economic benefit to this application being approved would be to the applicant, given that he is not proposing to create jobs.  And the issues listed above far outweigh any (rather weak) economic case made by the applicant.

    However, if the economic aspect is considered a material planning issue I believe that it is vital to investigate the claims set out in the applicant’s letter.  Presumably, he should be able to provide evidence of his financial situation.  It is important that any evidence is then reviewed by the District Valuer. 

    The fee for this investigation should, in my view, borne by the applicant, not the taxpayer, given the potential financial benefits. 

    This approach becomes of utmost importance following the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework, with its probable weakening of AONBs and general countryside and promotion of economic growth.

    6.  Determination in the public domain
    Given the public interest in the application, it is vital that it is determined in an open and transparent manner.  Therefore, it is essential, in my view, that the application is determined by the Development Management Committee.

    I will reserve my judgement until all the facts are known and in the event that this application comes to committee.

    Photograph:  The beautiful setting where industrial pig unit would be built