chicken farm campaigners

Campaigning residents living between Highbridge and East Huntspill say their lives are still being affected by “unacceptable levels of odour” from a controversial chicken farm.

They said this week that their “patience has expired” with the Environment Agency and Hook 2 Sisters, the operator of Newbridge Farm in New Road, East Huntspill.

Resident and campaigner Julia Stanbury told this week that residents are disappointed at the lack of real action to address the long-running issues.

They say the problem of “pungent smells” emerging from site is continuing to make their lives a misery. reported in 2018 that the Environment Agency had asked the owners of the farm to reduce its number of birds from 312,500 to 192,000 at the site. Then in March 2019 we reported the agency requested a further reduction to 133,500.

Julia told this week: “We are experiencing a strong sense of déjà vu because nothing has really changed since the operator, Hook 2 Sisters (H2S), agreed to keep the bird numbers to a maximum of 133,500 in March 2019.”

“H2S is still being allowed by the EA to try different, non-effective approaches, like the deodorising system, but we are still enduring and reporting unacceptable levels of odour with no real sign of a substantial and positive change to the situation.”

“Although the EA thanks us again in their latest Briefing for our patience, we have been suffering from the odour nuisance for over three years now and our patience has expired.”

“We are meeting a representative from the EA this week and we will be expressing our disappointment at the EA’s apparent inaction so far and pressing again for some significant formal enforcement or legal action to be taken against H2S.”

“We are led to believe that this is not happening because of the lower number of complaints more recently. We will highlight the analysis we have undertaken of complaints data received from the EA itself that shows quite clearly a trend in the number of reported complaints dropping over autumn and winter and picking up again in spring and summer, from which anyone could forecast that the number of complaints will start rising again before too long.”

“More generally, some people have become weary of reporting the odour because the lack of any formal action by the EA to reduce or stop the odour nuisance has resulted in a loss in faith and trust that something is actually being done to address the situation.”

“The figures show quite clearly that the overall reported level of odour from March 2017 to December 2019 has decreased in line with the reduced number of birds. However, there are still plenty of complaints about the odour being at or above the EA’s ‘acceptable’ limit of 3, which indicates a continued recorded breach of the operator’s Environmental Permit for nearly three years.”

“This is an untenable situation, especially in light of the EA fining Moy Park Ltd £50,000 back in 2013 in response to only 94 complaints of unacceptable levels of odour from an intensive chicken farm operation in Lincolnshire between 2008 and 2011, when the EA here has received over 450 complaints about Newbridge Farm in less than three years with many more than 94 each year so far.”

She adds: “We believe that the current crop cycle is in its last week and the odour will be at its strongest. We and other neighbours have reported the odour at unacceptable levels for several weeks already and it has been substantiated as being unacceptable by the EA, which should result in yet another Category 2 non-compliance.”

“We are concerned that publicly available information from the EA shows that they only carried out four compliance assessment visits of Newbridge Farm in 2019, compared to eleven in 2018 and six in 2017.”

“Any non-compliance identified at a site visit has a score and depending in which compliance band the total falls, the more the operator has to pay in subsistence charges for the increase in EA resource to further regulate the operation. Despite the continued reporting of unacceptable levels of odour (and noise) during 2019, the operator only scored 43 points (compliance Band D) compared to 264 points (Band F) in 2018 and 159 points (Band F) in 2017.”

“The EA’s own information seems to confirm our perception that in 2019, the EA let H2S off the hook and, despite assertions otherwise, has let us down. We face an uphill battle to re-invigorate our campaign and maintain support.”

“This is because the locals in the immediate area surrounding Newbridge Farm have been so successful in getting the number of birds reduced through their complaints, the odour no longer seems to be adversely affecting the more densely populated parts of East Huntspill. We believe this also contributes to the overall lower number of complaints made to the EA.”

“As a result of this and the prolonged planning appeal process for the adverse visual impact of the wrong roof material, we appear to have lost the little support we had from the wider community in the area – despite them benefitting from our efforts. We will be contacting Ian Liddell-Grainger MP to re-engage with and support our campaign now that the background political scene with Brexit and the general election has settled.”

On planning issues, she adds: “The Planning Inspector has yet to announce the date of the hearing for Amber Real Estate Investment’s (AREI) appeals against Sedgemoor District Council’s refusal to vary the Planning Permission to allow AREI to keep the banned light-coloured roofing material, and the subsequent Planning Enforcement Notice.”

Click here to see the petition to urge the Environment Agency to ‘end the harm at Newbridge Farm’.


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