chicken farm campaigners

Residents living next to a controversial chicken farm near Burnham-On-Sea have this week launched a new petition calling on the Environment Agency to take enforcement action against the operator of the site in a bid to reduce the continuing problems of ‘pungent smells’.

Residents living near Newbridge Farm in New Road, East Huntspill, are stepping up their campaign by encouraging local people to sign their new petition.

“This will be our third year of suffering – it’s not fair and it needs to stop,” campaigner and nearby resident Julia Stanbury told Burnham-On-Sea.com.

Burnham-On-Sea.com reported last year that the Environment Agency had asked the owners of the farm, Hook 2 Sisters, to reduce its number of birds from 312,500 to 192,000 at the site. Then in March we reported that the agency had requested a further reduction to 133,500.

But residents say the problem of “pungent smells” is continuing.

Julia added: “The latest batch of information we’ve received from the Environment Agency (EA), in response to an Environmental Information Regulations request, reveals that the EA has been taking a much stronger line with Hook 2 Sisters (H2S) to tackle the ongoing odour problems from Newbridge Farm.”

“The EA’s Compliance Assessment Report for March 2019 confirms that the continued lack of a sound technical solution by H2S to address the odour issue resulted in further de-stocking so that only 133,500 birds were allowed in three sheds.”

“We always thought that the reduced number of birds must be hitting H2S in the pocket but correspondence between the EA and H2S in December 2018 reveals that the claimed economic breakpoint is 215,000 birds.”

“H2S has been running well below that number for a good while, but given that the odour from 133,500 birds has been substantiated by the EA and independent odour surveys as still being unacceptable, they face the prospect of being fined and/or their Environmental Permit being varied, suspended or revoked by the EA – unless they make a significant investment in installing proven technology that would eliminate or drastically mitigate the odour nuisance.”

“Now here’s the dilemma… any new technology solution agreed by the EA, is almost certainly going to require changes to the profile of the sheds. This of course means that planning permission would be required but with the site owner having submitted an appeal against the Planning Authority’s refusal for them to keep the wrong coloured roof material, and an appeal against an enforcement notice, any further planning applications might have to wait until the appeals had been resolved – and that could be at least 12-18 months away.”

“The correspondence between the EA and H2S reveals what appears to be a growing impatience on the part of the EA with the lack of commitment from and half-hearted measures being taken by H2S. The EA issued a formal notice on 27th July 2018, requiring H2S to submit an action plan for addressing the continued non-compliance of section 3.3.1 of the Environmental Permit; and the final version of the odour modelling report. H2S failed to comply with the notice, which was confirmed by a letter from the EA on 24 September 2018. The response from H2S was a proposal to re-arrange the ventilation stacks on the sheds and introduce an “in-house filtration system” and would be submitting a planning application accordingly.”

“So, what we have here is a company that doesn’t appear to be truly serious about tackling the ongoing breach of its Environmental Permit and the adverse impact that is having; and a regulator, appearing to be getting near the end of its tether and about ready to bring out the ‘bigger guns’ it has available in its enforcement weapons cabinet. Unfortunately, while this environmental ‘cold war’ continues, we – the local residents and businesses – continue to suffer from the unacceptable levels of odour, potential health risks and noise nuisance from the operation at Newbridge Farm. This will be our third year of suffering – it’s not fair and it needs to stop!”

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