Belfast Telegraph

Council admits it can't give a date to debate pig farm

By Noel McAdam

Plans for a massive pig farm in Newtownabbey remain in limbo - six months after the project was downsized.

Antrim and Newtownabbey council confirmed it remains unable even to give a date for a decision.

Even a so-called 'pre-determination' hearing to debate the plans in detail has yet to be organised.

The Belfast Telegraph first revealed the controversial blueprint last summer as a storm of protest against the plans erupted.

It even involved former Queen guitarist Brian May and actors Martin Shaw and Jenny Seagrove.

The original application envisaged an intensive unit capable of housing up to 30,000 pigs - a proposal which first met with significant opposition from local residents.

The amended plans are believed to involve far fewer animals, the man behind the scheme, Derek Hall, said last September.

Then a renewed plan was finally formally submitted to Antrim and Newtownabbey council towards the end of last year.

In a statement the council said: "We have re-consulted with a range of agencies on the amended scheme submitted at the end of 2015.

"A number of responses are still awaited and no decision on a date for the pre-determination hearing before the council's planning committee is likely before all consultation responses have been received and assessed.

"The application itself will not be decided by the planning committee until all the relevant information has been fully considered and the pre-determination hearing has taken place.

"Therefore it is not possible to provide a date for when the application will be decided at this time."

Mr Hall said it was "all part of the process that takes place during planning" and he had nothing further to add at the moment.

He has already made clear: "I am determined to go ahead with the project. A lot of people have got misinformation and they think it's a slaughter house, but we are working with the RSPCA to design this to high welfare standards."

Last June a planned meeting with objectors due to take place at New Mossley Elim Church was shelved, as Mr Hall says he feared it would have turned into "a lynch mob".

Long-standing animal rights activist Brian May told the Belfast Telegraph the farm was a "horrific prospect". The renowned guitarist said he feared the plan could prove cruel and degrading to the animals and also put smaller farms out of business.

Ms Seagrove - star of TV dramas The Woman in White and Barbara Taylor Bradford's A Woman of Substance - said: "The scale of this farm is inconceivable. This isn't really about better animal welfare; it is about getting pigs from birth to slaughter in the most profitable way possible."

Mr Shaw - best known for The Professionals TV series - hit out: "Factory farming is a cancer, and it might be spreading. We have to stop it in its tracks. If these plans go ahead, then the floodgates will be open to American-style mega farms and the horrors that entails right across Great Britain and Northern Ireland."

Mr Hall said he respected the personal choice of people becoming long-term committed vegetarians, but hit back at the campaigning celebrities, who are all patrons of the campaign organisation VIVA - Vegetarians International Voice for Animals.

The Newtownabbey man said he had read that around a quarter of children living here are thought to be in low income families. "Unlike celebrities, their families cannot afford to pay organic meat prices and it can't be fair for meat to be a luxury," he went on.

He also argued that meat-eaters here had to decide whether they want to pay more for free-range products or a fair price for local produce. "We need a reality check. The population is growing rapidly and hundreds of thousands of people here want to eat meat," he said.

Belfast Telegraph


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