• RSPB maintains objection over industrial pig unit

    23rd August 2012 | News | Claire
  • The application, lodged by Chris Down of Crealy Adventure Park, has lodged a number of amendments to plans, including a response to the charity’s concerns over breaching EU legislation, the habitats regulations.

    Statutory planning consultee, Natural England, which also objected on the same grounds, has now asked for an extension until the end of August, to allow for annual leave.

    Mr Down’s agents have claimed that they have overcome the issues relating to the potential damage that nitrogen emissions would have on the site of special scientific interest that is Venn Ottery Common.

    The response from the RSPB is below.  It is quite technical but you should get the gist.

    Royal Society For The Protection Of Birds
    Comment Date: Mon 20 Aug 2012
    12/0318/MFUL Land West Of Collyhead Farm Venn Ottery Ottery St Mary EX11 1RY Erection of pig unit comprising 2 buildings, slurry store, attenuation pond and access track (revised application pursuant to application 10/1954/MFUL)

    Further to our response to this application, dated 30th March 2012, the RSPB would like to comment on the additional material that has recently been provided by the Applicant in support of its application, on which we were consulted in an e-mail from East Devon District Council (EDDC) on 24th July 2012.

    None of the additional information provided appears to address the issues on which the RSPB’s objection to this application exists, ie. that this proposal would increase nitrogen levels on the nearby areas of lowland heathland that are part of the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Special Area of Conservation (SAC), and the East Devon Heaths Special Protection Area (SPA) to above the upper Critical Load threshold of 20 kg/ha/year, and so harm their rare and vulnerable protected wildlife.

    We do not repeat here the detail of our response letter of 30th March 2012, which remains relevant. In summary, given the APIS figure for nitrogen load for the area of 19.88 kg/ha/yr, ie. already 9.88 kg/ha/yr over the lower Critical Load threshold for lowland heathland, any process contribution (PC) of greater than 0.12 kg N/ha/yr would breach the upper Critical Load threshold. Table 3 of Document Number 998032 (letter from Dr.Nicholas Betson of RPS (the Applicant’s consultant – RPS ref.JSL2031) to Amanda Newsome of Natural England dated 23 July 2012) confirms that at all Unit 5 receptor sites, the project contribution would exceed 0.12 kg N/ha/yr.

    As you are aware the requirements of the Conservation of Species and Habitats Regulations 2010 (as amended)(the Habitats Regulations) clearly set out the step by step process for considering projects that are likely to have a significant effect on the SAC and SPA.

    Regulation 61(1) Habitats Regulations require EDDC to make an appropriate assessment of the implications for the SAC and SPA in view of their conservation objectives. And then, pursuant to regulation 61(5) and (6) Habitats Regulations, EDDC must then consider whether it can be ascertained that the project will not, alone or in combination with other plans or projects, adversely affect the integrity of the SPA and SAC, having regard to the manner in which it is proposed to be carried out, and any conditions or restrictions subject to which that authorisation might be given.

    In light of the conclusions of the assessment and in accordance with reg 61(5) and (6), EDDC shall agree to the project only after having ascertained that it will not adversely affect the integrity of the SPA, alone or in combination with other plans or projects.

    The case being made by the Applicant’s consultant in his letter to Natural England (referenced to above) appears to be based on the premise that if a PC, in combination with other relevant project contributions, is below 20% of the critical load, it would not constitute an adverse effect on the integrity of a Natura 2000 site. Irrespective of any interim Environment Agency guidance on this matter, in our view it stands to reason that a project that leads to an exceedance of the upper range of a critical load threshold for a designated lowland heathland site must be deemed to have an adverse effect on the site’s integrity.

    Furthermore, we consider that the application’s nitrogenous outputs are based in part on mitigation measures that EDDC cannot have certainty in being adhered to for the lifetime of the operation of the development, notably reduced protein feed but also effective operation of the buildings, slurry store and biofilter and therefore should not be completely factored into EDDC’s conclusions on its appropriate assessment for this application.

    As such, in our view EDDC is unable to conclude that the application would not have an adverse effect on the integrity of the SAC and SPA. In view of this, the RSPB maintains its objection to this application. I hope that you find our comments helpful, but please do get in contact should you wish to discuss any of them.