Locals’ battle cry saves Flodden from chicken farm plans

PLANS for a free-range chicken farm near to the historic Flodden battlefield have been firmly rejected by local councillors, writes Adam Drummond.

Northumberland County Council’s planning committee unanimously threw out the proposal to house up to 24,000 free-range chickens.

A large number of residents had objected to the plans, with specific concerns relating to the possible smell from the proposed farm and the effect on the battlefield.

Local farmer John Laing had applied for permission to build a shed for the birds west of Branxton Buildings – just a quarter of a mile from the battlefield which is still remembered for the 1513 conflict which claimed the lives ofthousands of Scottish soldiers who died alongside King James IV.

It is also an integral part of Selkirk Common Riding, with Fletcher reputed to have been the only Souter to have returned from a group of 80 from the town who fought in the battle.

Some of the objection letters claimed it would be “insensitive” to build the unit where thousands of soldiers were killed.

George Farr, owner of Pallinsburn Estates, said in his objection letter: “The site is on the edges of the Battle of Flodden. With its quincentenary approaching in 2013 and the many proposed commemorative events occurring in 2012, 2013 and beyond, I don’t think that a 150m chicken shed over the top of where many Scots and English fell in 1513 and potentially their bone pits, is a just and fitting way of remembering them.”

Mr Farr also spoke out against the plan at last Thursday’s meeting.

Despite the large number of objections, Northumberland County Council’s planning team had recommended that the bid be approved by county councillors when it orginally went before them on July 7. Then, members decided to hold site visits before making a decision.

At last Thursday’s meeting, councillors unanimously went against the recommendation of its officials and refused permission, on the grounds that it would have an adverse impact on the battlefield site.

The decision will have been welcomed by the many local residents who opposed the plan on those grounds.

In an objection letter, Barbara Milne, of Pallinsburn, said: “Both sides of the border recognise this site as a memorial to the fallen and I am sure they would not like the dead to be remembered by erecting a poultry unit on the edges of the battlefield site.”

However, the county archaeologist, Chris Burgess, who is heavily involved with the Flodden 500 project set up to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden in 2013, had no objections to the outline planning application in his professional capacity.

The planning officer’s report which went before the committee stated: “Whilst the site does not sit within the designated area of the Battle of Flodden, it is close to the area and the potential for archaelogical features/finds, associated with the battle, cannot be ignored.

“The county archaeologist has examined the proposal and advised that this potential can be addressed by a scheme of archaeological recording.

“Should consent be granted the inclusion of a planning condition, reflecting this advice, is considered to be reasonable.”

The agent for Mr Laing had dismissed concerns about the impact of the scheme on the battle site, and also insisted that there would be no odour from the unit.

The council’s environmental health team had no concerns about the impact of the unit on neighbouring homes, the closest of which would be about 230 metres from the site.

The Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Rev Stephen Platten and the local vicar, the Rev Linda Gardham, had also objected.

Mr Platten, who plans to retire to a home he has in nearby Branxton, said: “It seems to us that the positioning of it just outside a village with the prevailing wind carrying all of the dust and smell into the village could hardly be worse.”

Concerns were also expressed by local residents about the use of an incinerator on the site and an increase in vermin.