Newtownabbey pig farm: Council overwhelmed by 2,000 protest letters at farmer's plan for factory to house 30,000 pigs
More than 2,000 people have objected to a giant pig farm in Newtownabbey on the outskirts of north Belfast as a mushrooming public outcry continues.
Farmer Derek Hall has submitted plans to build one of the UK's biggest pig facilities on the Raehill Road.
Up to 30,000 pigs could be held in the proposed 23-acre facility at any time.
It will include two anaerobic digester tanks and two lagoons - one for water, and one for pig waste.
Local residents initially hit out in fury at the smell and noise they fear 30,000 pigs could generate, as well as fears of potential flooding.
Now the outrage has spread outside the immediate area with more than 2,000 letters of objection received by Antrim and Newtownabbey Council. The council has received so many objections it has 1,500 correspondents outstanding, and has warned it is no longer able to individually respond to all. Additionally, an online petition has attracted 150,212 signatures.
It is expected that it may take until autumn before all the responses have been processed and the matter is ready to be discussed by the council's planning committee.
Mr Hall told the Belfast Telegraph that he was not alarmed by the sheer volume of objection letters, revealing that many were coming from as far away as the United States, with animal rights groups getting involved.
He claimed that many objectors were unaware of the details of his plan despite the fact he has developed a website (www.nipigfarm.com) explaining his plans and reasons for the new facility.
"I am trying to remove the pigs from the old site to improve their conditions," he said. "And the technology that has to be in the place has to be odourless. Nothing in the plans can be passed until it meets the criteria and regulations."
He said the pigs will have 28.5% more space in the new structure and dismissed arguments that they should be outside.
"Today would be one of the very few days they would want to be outside," he said, claiming Northern Ireland's climate tends to be too cold for the animals.
Mr Hall was convicted of two separate pollution offences in 2012. He pleaded guilty to offences of polluting discharge to a waterway after his existing pig farm was found to be polluting a nearby stream and river. Mr Hall also admitted contravention of a pollution prevention and control permit condition and was ordered to pay court fines totalling £500.
South Antrim MP Danny Kinahan has said the decision over whether to approve Mr Hall's plan will be the first major challenge for councils since they took over planning powers. Mr Kinahan said that he had met with the council, two groups of objectors and had spoken to the farmer.
"The objectors really are concerned for all the right reasons. It's traffic, health, smells and putting something as big as this next to other people's houses," he said.