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Planning defeat for Green Party councillor

A Green Party councillor has suffered bitter defeat in her legal campaign to stop a new poultry farm opening near Leominster.

Felicity Norman took the case all the way to London's High Court, highlighting neighbours' anxieties about noise and offensive odours. She said there was a "proliferation" of poultry farms in Herefordshire and objectors were not having their concerns "taken seriously". But now a senior judge has rejected her challenge – and even ruled that she had no right to bring the case to court in the first place.

Planning permissions initially refused

Farmer, G.T. Williams, wants to build 2 new poultry sheds, with a capacity for 82,500 birds, on Rogers Farm, near Bush Bank. Birds would be turned around for slaughter in cycles lasting about 35 days before the sheds were cleaned out and a new flock brought in. Herefordshire Council initially refused planning permission, citing odour objections and the noise of fork lift trucks and ventilation fans.

Odour concentrations below benchmark

But that decision was reversed by a central government planning inspector in December last year and planning consent was granted. The inspector agreed that odours given off by the sheds could be "quite intense" while they were cleaned out between cycles. But the smells would only be short term and Mr Williams had carried out a "robust" assessment of potential odour impacts. The council's own independent consultants had concluded that potential odour concentrations would be below the Environment Agency's benchmark.

Environmental permit

The Environment Agency had issued Mr Williams with an environmental permit and he would have to comply with its terms.

The inspector said: "I conclude that there will be no significant harm to the living conditions of neighbours arising from the proposal in respect of odour and noise." Ms Norman, a councillor who is also chair of the North Herefordshire Green Party, challenged the decision on various grounds. But Judge Justine Thornton QC today dashed her hopes - and Ms Norman will now have to pay £5,000 in legal costs.

No legal standing

The judge agreed that the inspector was "mistaken" when he said that the doors to the poultry unit would face away from neighbours' homes. But, ruling that that made no difference to the outcome, she added: "I am satisfied that the error was not material.” Claims that the inspector "misunderstood" technical evidence about odour concentrations were also rejected.

His decision was "adequately reasoned" and he was entitled to take account of the conditions attached to the environmental permit. Judge Thornton noted that Ms Norman lives 10 miles away from the farm and would not be personally affected by the development. Although she "may feel aggrieved" at the grant of planning permission, she had no legal standing to challenge it, the judge ruled.

Authors: PW Reporters

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