Plans for an egg production unit housing 6,000 hens have been rejected, much to the relief of residents of a South Gloucestershire community who had feared it would harm their lives and their ancient village.
The scheme for Green Belt land at Collins Farm in Abson had been recommended for approval by South Gloucestershire planning officers, but councillors threw it out on the grounds that the development and access would have a harmful impact on the landscape and the historic character of the hamlet.
The development control (east) committee heard that that well over 90% of the village had objected to the plans from local man Charles Taylor, and many were at the meeting on Thursday.
Wick & Abson Parish Council and Pucklechurch Parish Council had also objected to the scheme which would have seen all eggs supplied to national supplier John Bowler’s Free Range Eggs.
Locals were concerned about 26-tonne lorries trundling through local lanes where there is a 7.5 tonne weight limit and which are used by cyclists, walkers and horse riders.
They were also unhappy about changes to hedgerows and verges, as well as blighted views and the impact on the setting of the Grade I listed church. They said the silos would be taller than local houses and feared odour, flies, noise and the risk of surface run-off contaminating the nearby brook.
In total there were 72 letter or emails of objection but there were also 30 letters or emails of support, saying the fears were misplaced and odour, noise and environmental impact had been addressed and would not be an issue.
Supporters also said there were already plenty of movements of heavily laden agricultural vehicles locally, that the unit would be small and invisible from the village, and that a similar operation in Wickwar had been running for three years without complaint.
Recommending the plans be approved, subject to changes to the access off Lodge Road involving cutting back a hedge and maple tree, planning officers felt that all concerns had been addressed.
They said an odour and fly management plan had been undertaken, there would be the most up-to-date ventilation systems, and all dirty water would be directed towards a gutter and sealed tank. Noise was not considered to be excessive and light pollution would be kept to a minimum.
They had no landscape objections, saying the height of buildings and silos was not excessive, and the setting of the church would not be significantly affected by the egg production unit 240 metres away.
But several committee members voiced their concern about the plans. Cllr Alan Lawrence (Lib Dem, Dodington) said he was a believer in farm diversification but not in “destroying a gem like Abson” in the process, which was met by cheers from the public gallery.
Cllr Ian Boulton (Lab, Staple Hill) was also cheered when he told the committee that he was concerned about the odour implications of 6,000 birds. “I use chicken manure on my garden and it stinks,” he said.
After the meeting Cllr Sue Jones, who chairs Wick & Abson Parish Council, said it had been an “agonising” time for the village with the plans hanging over it, but she was relieved that the committee had rejected the scheme.
Katherine and Stephen Hooper, of Lodge Road, who live within 100 metres of the site, moved into what they describe as their “dream home” 18 months ago and that their lives would have made “unbearable” had the scheme been approved.
However, villagers’ relief is tempered by the fact that an appeal against the council’s decision cannot be ruled out.