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Go-ahead recommended for Newtownabbey pig farm, but animal welfare group to fight on

By Rebecca Black

Published 19/11/2016

The site of the proposed pig farm
The site of the proposed pig farm

A new reduced size pig farm in Newtownabbey has been recommended for approval.

A previous planning application for a large-scale pig farm in Newtownabbey - which could accommodate up to 30,000 animals - sparked controversy last year, with animal advocacy groups speaking out against it.

The Hall Farm has filed a new, smaller scale application, however Animal Aid is maintaining its objections.

The planning committee of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council is set to vote on the application next Tuesday.

According to the council agenda for the meeting, the proposed pig farm is to include four pig houses with air scrubber units and associated water and waste holding tanks. It will also involve the widening of a section of Rea Hill Road and recontouring of land within the site.

The application has been recommended for approval with a number of conditions, including a programme of archaeological work and a cap on the total site capacity of no more than 6,888 weaners and 10,332 fatteners.

However, Animal Aid has urged councillors to refuse permission for the pig farm.

The group has claimed that up to 17,000 pigs could be reared in "cramped conditions".

"They would be deprived of the opportunity to carry out many of their natural behaviours, and are likely to become bored, stressed and frustrated," the group said in a statement, adding that petitions against the proposal have gained more than 250,000 signatures.

Animal Aid director Isobel Hutchinson has claimed that approving the proposal would set a "dangerous precedent for the intensification of UK farming".

"And if these scaled-back plans are given the green light, it will be much easier to gain permission for the original 30,000-pig unit in the future," she said.

"We also believe that there are many other compelling reasons why councillors should refuse permission.

"These include an increase in traffic to the point that Rea Hill Road would have to be widened, and intruding on the countryside with industrial-scale agricultural buildings. Chunks of the landscape would even have to be carved out to make the surface level enough for building on."

Earlier this year the farmer behind the application, Derek Hall, addressed concerns over animal welfare. He said: "The facility has RSPCA standards and with extra technology to improve their environment and alleviate environmental concerns for the local community."

In a statement on its website, Hall's Pig Farm said its existing farm buildings are old and they do not have the space to renovate the existing site and remain in business.

"We have been farming on this site for around 62 years and while the area wasn't built up when we first started farming here, the area is now extremely residential," the statement says.

"Our aim is to develop a new site on the Rea Hill Road, off the Carntall Road, in Newtownabbey. This area is a more agricultural setting for our proposed farm than our existing site, with little housing in close proximity. Our new proposed farm would be a state-of-the-art facility, providing improvements both for the animals and for our environment. If planning permission is granted, the farm would be built to house around 15,120 animals, approximately 50% more than at the existing farm.

"If the new farm is approved, only sows will remain on the existing site along with their young offspring. Approval for the new farm will allow us to renovate the existing site.

"The reduced pig numbers and renovations will significantly reduce odour and allow us to improve the welfare of our pigs."

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