Residents living near a controversial chicken farm in East Huntspill have stepped up their calls for action to halt problems with ‘unbearable’ smells.
As 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.
They are awaiting a decision by Sedgemoor District Council on whether the farm’s owners have breached planning rules.
Kay Bennett, who lives just 200 metres from the farm, says: “I have a log cabin for holidaymakers but because I can’t guarantee that the smell won’t be there I have lost several bookings.”
Tim Pugh, who lives downwind of the farm about half a mile away, says: “The smells from the farm often get funnelled in our direction. They are so bad that it gets into the back of your throat. Several times last summer we couldn’t have a barbecue because of it – it was so unbearable that you couldn’t sit outside in the smell.”
Jessica Stanbury, who lives near the farm, says she is “concerned” for the health of her young child given the “terrible smells” coming from the site.
Resident Tony Monaghan added: “It’s not just the smells that concern us – the building is out of keeping here and has the appearance of a factory rather than a farm given its size.”
Ian and Julia Stanbury, pictured below, are among the residents who are up in arms and considering taking formal action.
Ian says: “Last summer, during the hot weather, the smell was particularly horrendous – it’s definitely not a normal farm smell. It’s so bad that we were unable to open any windows, you can’t put out washing and outdoor events are just not possible here. It lasts for up to 2-3 weeks at intervals of around 7-8 weeks, depending on the breeding cycle of the chickens.”
He says the problems have grown over a period of several years. Back in 2009, Hook 2 Sisters took over the original four sheds at Newbridge Farm, which at the time had a capacity for 122,750 broiler chickens.
In June 2010 the Environment Agency approved Hook 2 Sisters’ application to increase its capacity to 160,000 birds in the four wooden sheds.
In August 2011, Amber Real Estate Investments applied to Sedgemoor District Council for permission to demolish the four wooden sheds and redevelop the site by replacing the sheds with five much larger ones.
In November 2011, Sedgemoor granted planning consent with one of the conditions being that the “development will not cause unacceptable levels of noise or odour”. Another condition prohibited the applicant using light-coloured ‘goosewing grey’ roofing material and to use a darker colour instead.
In March 2016, residents say work to demolish the old sheds started and groundwork was also undertaken. In May that year, Hook 2 Sisters also applied for a variation to their environmental permit to increase the capacity at the larger site to 312,500 broiler chickens.
Ian says that between March and September, the five new sheds were constructed with the light-coloured ‘goosewing grey’ roofing material and the new redeveloped site began operations in October 2016.
Stuart Houlet from Sedgemoor District Council confirmed to Burnham-On-Sea.com this week: “We are currently investigating a number of complaints received relating to potential breaches of planning in respect of the development.”
“These matters are being carefully considered and we hope to conclude the investigations in the near future but currently I am unable to put a timescale on this.”
Ian and Julia are also concerned about additional heavy goods vehicles accessing the site via local roads, and also gas tanks installed on the farm site near local homes which, according to planning documents, contain 46,800 litres of liquid propane gas (LPG). Consent was also given for those by Sedgemoor in 2016.
Ian spoke out at February’s meeting of East Huntspill Parish Council regarding the full list of concerns. He urged residents to accurately record occurrences of the odour and to call the Environment Agency incident hotline on 0800 807060 every time the odour is smelt.
He claims that formal odour modelling undertaken by an environmental consultant had been “flawed” as the “odour dispersion modelling is based on too many variables, including wind data from global forecasting models, not actual data from or near the site”. He feels the modelling under-estimates the actual emissions by at least 50%.
Indeed, a letter from Public Health England to the Environment Agency, seen by Burnham-On-Sea.com, states: “We are concerned about the close proximity of residential properties that are within 250 metres for bio-aerosals and 400 metres for odour of the site.”
A Senior Environment Officer at the Environment Agency told Burnham-On-Sea.com: “The Environment Agency are aware of, and have substantiated, odour complaints originating from Newbridge Farm Poultry Unit.”
“Over the past few months the Operator has been working to identify root causes and mitigation techniques to help reduce the impact of the farm on the local residents.”
“Recently the site has experimented with feed formulations and a reduction in bird numbers. It was planned to make alterations to the ventilation system but the planning permission needed to be able to extend the chimneys on the roofs was recently refused due to local objections and visual impact.”
“As a result the Operator, Hook 2 Sisters, are now being asked to provide additional methods and techniques to reduce odour impact.”
Burnham-On-Sea.com has also invited Hook 2 Sisters, the farm’s owner, to comment and will update this story if a response is received.