Proposal for 15,000-pig unit gets the go ahead in Northern Ireland
23rd Nov 2016 / By Alistair Driver
A proposal for a new farm to house 15,000 pigs in Northern Ireland has finally got the go ahead after a long planning battle and in the face of fierce opposition.
Planning permission has finally been given despite 200,000 people signing a petition opposing it and the intervention of high-profile celebrities.
Farmer Derek Hall had originally proposed to build a unit for 30,000 pigs on the Rea Hill Road, near Newtownabbey, but revised plans have now been passed for a unit half that size. The farm will be built on a greenfield site.
Planning permission was passed by councillors, some of them farmers, at a sitting of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council Planning Committee. Nine councillors voted in favour against two who opposed the development.
Residents had voiced huge concern over the project and in particular over the slurry and smell and the likely noise associated with it.
In total, there were 856 individual letters of objection, while 200,000 people had previously signed an online petition.
Celebrities including Queen guitarist and animal welfare campaigner Brian May as well as actors Martin Shaw and Jenny Seagrove had publicly opposed the pig unit in the past.
Animal Aid was very much to the fore, claiming up to 17,000 pigs would be kept in cramped conditions.
Opponents of the plans were present in the council chamber for the meeting and protested afterwards outside, some confronting the councillors.
Welfare issues addressed
Ulster Unionist Party councillor Roderick Swann is also a farmer and backed the proposal.
"I'm a farmer myself who supports the agri-industry and I was quite satisfied that all the necessary welfare issues were addressed," he said, reports Northern Ireland-based journalist Chris McCullough.
"The planning case officer and all the consultees were quite happy with everything that was proposed."
"These people are all farm quality assured, the pigs are well looked after. To get a quality assurance accreditation is very tight."
Commenting on the celebrities becoming involved, he added: "I would say simply keep your nose out of it. I'm a farmer myself for 50 years and I understand farming.
"This will be the most modern pig farm, not a factory, not only in Ireland but also Great Britain."
Opposition on the council
DUP councillors Councillor John Smyth and his fellow party colleague Thomas Hogg voted against the motion.
Mr Smyth said: "My objections were that I felt the experts weren't always right. I was undecided till tonight when I heard the arguments for and against.
"Bringing such a large development of slurry to the side of a hill I think is going to be dangerous for the future. Also, I have concerns how it will be produced year after year. I have grave concerns.
"I wouldn't like it on my front door, and a lot of people are concerned. It will definitely smell. People say it will be odour free, but there's no such thing as an odour free system. There are animal welfare concerns."