Councillors go against advice to reject ‘outrageous’ chicken farm plan

Middle Farm, Mixbury. NNL-190423-184711009
Middle Farm, Mixbury. NNL-190423-184711009

Hundreds of concerned residents breathed a sigh of relief as a proposal for a chicken farm was unanimously refused permission yesterday (Thursday, May 30).

A farmer’s plan to diversify his farm near Mixbury by rearing 300,000 chickens every seven weeks was deemed acceptable by Cherwell District Council’s planning officer.

But the planning committee disagreed, taking the side of the 627 people who signed a petition, and around 275 who wrote letters, opposing the scheme.

Committee vice-chairman Maurice Billington said: “It’s an outrageous application and it should be thrown out.”

Farmer Peter Rymer wanted to build six large units plus ancillary buildings on Middle Farm to diversify the arable business to guard against Brexit uncertainties.

Cllr Tony Ilott likened the size of the buildings to as high as the council chamber over two football pitches.

Residents were concerned about the smell, noise and increased traffic caused by the scheme, as well as the impact on the landscape, which the planning officer admitted it would have a harmful impact.

But the officer believed the ‘economic and social’ benefits, namely the creation of two jobs and security for the farm, outweighed that harm.

Cllr Barry Wood, whose Fringfords and Heyfords ward includes the Featherbed Lane farm, started the debate as a public speaker to ‘stand up for his residents’.

The council leader outlined several policy reasons why the application should be rejected, and argued the countryside should not be spoiled for the sake of one business.

“Why do you need to pollute people’s lives to gain some alleged continued sustainability of your business,” he added.

Mr Rymer defended the proposal by saying the chickens would secure his family-run farm’s long-term viability and would be to the highest standards: “but if I get it wrong, you do have lawful avenues to shut me down.”

Concerns about the potential smell and noise pollution were dismissed as ‘conjecture’ by the applicant as their reports said it would not be a factor. But the council’s expert believed the assessment was deficient.

Another local member Cllr Ian Corkin described it as an ‘industrial complex’ that would be more suited to a site by the M40.

Cllr Chris Heath said she had never seen such a response in ten years on the committee and the council has a duty to protect residents.

“If we give permission for this, then these people will never forgive Cherwell District Council and for that reason I second refusal,” she added.