Feathers fly over bid for new poultry plant near Kelso

A Borders beef farmer’s bid to diversify into poultry production is being recommended for approval despite ruffling feathers among neighbours and prompting a 22,000-name protest petition.

By Paul Kelly
Tuesday, 29th September 2020, 12:57 pm
Falsidehill Farm, north of Kelso.
Falsidehill Farm, north of Kelso.

Planning officer Craig Miller is advising members of Scottish Borders Council’s planning and building standards committee to give the green light for four chicken sheds capable of housing more than 37,000 birds at Falsidehill Farm, north of Kelso, when they meet via video-link on Monday.

Currently, applicant Stuart Ramsey’s 675-acre farm is given over to pasture for breeding and rearing cattle, an enterprise centred on a herd of 350 suckler cows.

Now, though, he wants to diversify his business by adding a poultry farm for fertile egg production, in addition to store rooms, egg-packing facilities and a loading bay.

The total floorspace of that development would be almost 7,000sq m.

However, concerns about his proposals have been raised by objectors both near and far.

Objections have been submitted by 12 households both close at hand and further afield, and a protest petition drawn up by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and backed by about 22,000 signatories has been handed over.

Issues raised include concerns over poultry farming in principle, animal cruelty, and the welfare of the birds.

Further issues highlighted centre on potential for disease, human health and pandemic connections, inadequate road access, potential air pollution and visual impact.

In a report to next week’s meeting, Mr Miller recommends approval of the application, saying: “A number of the objections, together with the petition, question moral and welfare issues associated with intensive poultry units.

“Whilst members may note the concerns expressed, such matters are not for consideration within a planning application and relate more to national policy and statutory regulations governing the operation of such uses.

“The planning application must be judged on the provisions of the development plan and any other material planning considerations only.”

Mr Ramsey’s agent, East Yorkshire-based specialist agricultural and rural planning consultant Ian Pick, said: “The proposed buildings are purpose-built poultry units.

“The site will accommodate 37,060 birds in total, with 9,265 birds per building.

“The use of the site will be for the housing of laying hens and cockerels, producing fertile eggs for hatching.

“Birds will be delivered to the site as point-of-lay pullets at around 17 weeks of age. The length of the flock is around 48 weeks, following which the birds are removed and the buildings are empty for around four weeks for cleaning and preparation of the next batch of birds.”

“Egg collection and packing will be undertaken on the farm every day.

“At the end of the flock cycle, the poultry manure is removed from the buildings and loaded into trailers, which are then sheeted, and the manure removed from the site for disposal.”

A spokesperson for PETA said: “Thousands of compassionate people have spoken and Scottish Borders Council should heed their concerns for animal welfare, the environment, health and the community.

“PETA is calling for this plan to be scrapped, sparing thousands of birds a lifetime of suffering and an agonising death.”