jlastrasA controversial chicken farm near Burnham-On-Sea has been forced to reduce the number of birds it houses from 312,000 to 192,000 in a bid to reduce smells for nearby residents – but locals say the problem of pungent odours has still not improved.

As we first reported here, residents living near Newbridge Farm in New Road, East Huntspill, say the pungent smells coming from the site have worsened over the past year.

The Environment Agency has this week issued a brand new briefing note about Newbridge Farm’s situation in which it reveals the reduction in birds by keeping one of the five huge sheds at the site empty.

The Environment Agency says in the report: “Since the last briefing our staff have been out on site from Monday to Friday, every morning and afternoon in order to check for odours from Newbridge Farm.”

“We have received independent odour modelling which suggests that bird numbers need to be reduced at Newbridge Farm in order to reduce odours to an acceptable level for nearby local residents and businesses.”

“As a result, the operator is currently keeping shed 5 empty and has reduced the number of birds on site to a total of 192,000 across the remaining 4 sheds in use. The operator has informed us that they will be maintaining this stocking level for the next crop of birds also.”

“The operator has now made some changes to the way that the ventilation works. This means that side vents from the sheds open quicker and stay open for longer than they previously did. This allows the roof fans to operate at a faster speed so they should be more effective in dispersing stale air from within the sheds. We met with the operator on 5th July to review the impact of the changes made on site and to assess the current level of odour issues.”

“Now that the ventilation system is working more effectively at its design capacity and the stocking level has been reduced we will be asking the operator to organise another independent odour survey. This is likely to be carried out in the Autumn this year so that the results are directly comparable with an earlier odour survey, carried out in Autumn last year.”

The agency adds: “Our officers will continue to visit the site when significant odour is reported and will consider the need to carry out further routine monitoring. If the current reduced stocking level continues to result in reduced odour complaints over a number of crop cycles we may look to vary the current environmental permit, so that the operator is able to keep no more than 192,000 birds on site across 4 sheds. If the permit is varied this would mean a permanent reduction in bird numbers from the 312,500 across 5 sheds which is allowed by the existing permit.”

Nearby residents Ian and Julia Stanbury, pictured top, are among the locals angry about the issues and pushing for action.

Speaking to Burnham-On-Sea.com on Tuesday evening (July 24th), Ian said: “We are pleased that the Environment Agency is continuing to take action on monitoring and working with the operator to try and reduce the odours.”

“But residents here are still smelling odours that are worse than ever despite the reduction in the numbers of birds. The birds are currently just half way through the crop cycle and we are still getting a strong stink. We need people to keep reporting back to the Environment Agency.”

“The odour is especially unpleasant for us in this very hot weather. We have to open our windows to let the air in, but if the wind is blowing from the wrong direction, we have to close the windows and suffer very hot homes.”

He added: “We are still getting lots of support and interest, and we’re currently working with the BBC’s Inside Out West TV programme on an investigation that will be broadcast later this year.”

Meanwhile, residents are still awaiting a decision by Sedgemoor District Council on whether the farm’s owners have breached planning rules with the farm’s roof dsesign – which could lead to the facilities being closing or a retrospective planning application being required.

A petition to urge Sedgemoor District Council to close down the controversial industrial chicken farm was launched earlier this year and has been signed by over 1,700 local people.