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Villagers' vow to battle on

PUBLISHED: 14:55 03 February 2009 | UPDATED: 22:21 05 July 2010

RESIDENTS in a Suffolk village are rallying to make one final attempt to stop the creation of a farm for up to 340,000 chickens.

Villagers from Thorington, near Blythburgh, voiced their anger last year when Hillfairs revealed plans to build six units for intensive chicken farming.

RESIDENTS in a Suffolk village are rallying to make one final attempt to stop the creation of a farm for up to 340,000 chickens.

Villagers from Thorington, near Blythburgh, voiced their anger last year when Hillfairs revealed plans to build six units for intensive chicken farming.

The group, who have set up a website, attracted 114 members to a Facebook group, and lodged a petition on the website of the Prime Minister's office, have vowed to continue the fight even though the company has now been given planning permission.

Suffolk Coastal District Council has approved the plans the nod now that Hillfairs has proved it has complied with a set of conditions which were set out six months ago.

Although building work can now start, the farming company's final hurdle is to secure a permit from the Environment Agency before it can start production on the site, which is part of the old gravel pit in Thorington.

Objectors say they are concerned about the possibility of contamination of well water which supplies some village homes, noise, smells, heavy traffic, and the scale of a potential epidemic if avian flu struck.

Erika Hazelgrove, who lives in Thorington, said: “I'm furious. My greatest concern is that Suffolk is really setting itself out on a limb to call itself the greenest county. A huge percentage of our tourism in Suffolk is based on food and farming, and to have a third of a million chickens being intensively farmed eight miles from Southwold doesn't support that.”

She added: “I'm not surprised about the decision because the council can only say yes or no to this on planning grounds and not ethical grounds. I'm sad and I'm disappointed.”

Sam Fairs, a spokesman for Hillfairs, said that the chickens, which will be housed in sheds, will pose a much lower risk of contracting avian flu than a free range flock, and that noises and smells will be contained within the units. He said that an average of two lorries per day would be a significant reduction from the level of transport used in the past at the gravel pit.

“We are very pleased,” he said. “At the end of the day we need local food and high welfare chickens. I don't understand why people are so upset about it - Suffolk is full of it already. I think people are getting it confused with battery chickens which lay eggs - we are after high welfare chicken.”

He argued that chickens reared at local farms were preferable to birds imported from countries with less stringent regulations.

Parish council chairman Charles Mullett, who fought the plans, said: “I feel this decision was made taking into account many factors that were not local. I put up a good scrap.”

A spokeswoman for The Environment Agency confirmed that application by Hillfairs for a permit was being processed. She said that the agency may require the company to carry out an impact assessment if it is found there may be a potential to cause harm to the environment.

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