Reasons for objection to the planning application for poultry rearing sheds at Bage Court, Dorstone.
The upper Golden Valley is an area of outstanding landscape significance which is recognised as such both nationally and internationally. It is of considerable historic interest featuring, amongst other works, in the diaries of Francis Kilvert. The views over the valley from the Merbach are surely amongst the beautiful but sensitive in all the United Kingdom – sensitive because its beauty could so easily be destroyed by wrongful development.
The nearby Neolithic burial chamber known as ‘Arthur’s Stone’ was located at its unrivalled position some five thousand years ago because of it spectacular and commanding location.
It is thus no surprise that this area has become renowned worldwide for its magical beauty and attracts thousands of visitors, local, national, and international, who in turn support the local economy. It cannot be emphasised too strongly how commercial and industrial development in the form of chicken rearing sheds would spoil, more likely sabotage, this wonderful landscape for our own and future generations.
There are chicken rearing sheds at Glasbury, Kinnersley, Sarnsfield, Weobley and Kingstone to name just a few of those with which I am familiar. As best I can tell from satellite images they have usually between four and eight sheds. I have been told that the applicant has said that he can give no assurance that his proposed commercial development would stop at just two sheds and it would seem that all the sites in Herefordshire have progressively expanded the number of sheds and the scale of their owner/managers operations. Thus whilst the present application is for two sheds those responsible for planning decisions should take account of the possibility, or likelihood that there would be follow on applications for more sheds.
To allow this kind of commercial development in the Golden Valley one must assume that other landowners would seek to create identical or similar developments in this precious environmental resource. Future generations would never forgive us. There are many less sensitive areas in Herefordshire where this kind of development would be less destructive. Whilst individual farmers or landowners might own land they do not own the landscape. That is a precious resource belonging to the whole community, so precious that taxpayers are willing to pay farmers to manage and preserve that landscape by giving them a variety of payments and subsidies to do just that – to look after the landscape on our behalf, rather than exploit it just for their own commercial gain.
Risk of contamination of the River Dore
The area for the proposed application is immediately adjacent to the source and headwaters of the River Dore. A chicken rearing operation at this position will lead to substantial run-off from the roofs, concrete yards, and stacked manure some of which will be spread on to adjacent pasture and arable fields. It is therefore inevitable that contaminated surface water will run into the River Dore, and also into the water table from where it will pass into the river.
I own amenity land which includes a section of both banks of the River Dore less than one mile as the crow flies (or the water runs) downstream from the site of the proposed application. I notice that whenever there has been heavy rain the river carries a foam which is obviously due to contaminated run off or drainage. On several occasions I have found a large number of dead frogs and toads in my small lake which is fed from the river. Three years ago I found suddenly a huge quantity of dead fish both in the lake and the river itself.
The Department of the Environment investigated and established that a local farmer upstream (they were not able to disclose to me his name) was responsible for this toxic contamination and warned that person that he would be prosecuted if it recurred. All water born life was destroyed and even now has never fully recovered. Many will remember that the Hereford Times published a report with pictures of the dead fish. The point about this is that even if a farmer was claiming that such toxic contamination could not or would not occur - it has, and it will.
I believe it would be grievously irresponsible of anyone to allow such a development so close to a water course. The effects on water quality further down the river where water is extracted could be dangerous, even tragic to humans let alone fish, and the liabilities and legal consequences for those undertaking or having permitting such commercial activity would be enormous, especially as they would have been warned that this was a foreseeable event.
Road transport – the B4348 through Dorstone – the worst classified road in Herefordshire
The planning application would lead to an increase in the number of very large HGVs using the B4348. These would mostly be 44 ton 3 axle articlulated monsters that would have to negotiate possibly the worst section of classified road anywhere in the county. There is a stretch of about 500 metres just one mile east from the application site which consists of four very narrow extreme right angle bends with pinch points opposite the church and Dorstone House boundary wall, and again at Crossways Farm and Coppy Sally.
At these points the width of the road is hardly enough to allow a single HGV to pass, requiring oncoming traffic to reverse. Sometimes with two HGVs facing each other and with back up queues of up to ten vehicles either side, major route blockage occurs which takes many minutes to resolve. At further points in this section, that is from the playing field entrance and church to Crossways and beyond, vehicles can only pass by driving on the verges, and frequently damaging boundary walls. Almost all the properties on this section have had boundary walls damaged. I myself have had to pay some six times for wall repairs and attempted to reinforce outbuilding walls. In 2013 the church had to undertake repairs to its retaining wall for the graveyard adjacent to the road as a result of substantial vehicle damage. The perpetrators of such damage never leave their details.
Whilst the applicant or his agent may claim that the increase in very large HGVs would not be excessive, one must consider the implications if the commercial development at Bage Court increased the size of its poultry rearing operations in line with what has occurred at most other sites. It is really beyond imagination that planners could consider accepting an increase in the amount of very large HGV movements through this section of the B4348, claimed by many to be the worst section of classified road in the county.
Risk of dust and thus disease spreading to the village of Dorstone
The prevailing wind in the upper Golden Valley is westerly and any dust particles or micro-organisms are known to spread in the wind for a kilometre or more downwind from the sites of chicken rearing sheds. The first houses of Dorstone to the east are around half a mile along the B4348, with the village’s and Fairfield School’s playing field, St. Faith’s Church and Dorstone House less than a mile from the site.
Aerial photos (see Goggle Earth) show the amount of dust that collects around the roof ventilators at other chicken rearing sheds, such ‘dust’ being little more than dried chicken faeces. It is well understood that the majority of reared chickens in these sheds carry various infections which can spread to humans causing serious illness and even fatalities, mainly E.Coli and Campylobacter. Respiratory diseases are a major hazard for persons who work in these sheds, but the dust and related allergens can cause serious illness to those living downwind of the sheds. As a medical practitioner (now retired) I would have no hesitation in supporting those who would wish to investigate the sheds as a possible source or contributing factor in disease that they might suffer.
There are wild ducks, mallards, in the area and the sheds could become the source or reservoir of avian flu in the Golden Valley. Again the size and scope of liabilities and legal consequences of causing such illness would be potentially catastrophic for the applicant, as they would also be for those who would have participated in approval of such a location for this potentially dangerous commercial activity.
I understand that at these rearing sheds there is a mucking out programme that takes place every five or six weeks and the associated smell is very distressing and unpleasant for those that live nearby. If the sheds at Bage Court were created there might well be numerous complaints of obnoxious smells, which could lead to legal and or enforcement action against the applicant.
The applicant or immediate family members have been granted permission to create eight new houses at Bage Court, although there is no evidence that construction has started yet. It is surprising that the applicant would seek to erect these chicken sheds so close (around 200 metres) to this planned development. The disturbance and potential annoyance might delay sales and might also lead to complaints from new residents.
I respectfully submit that this application is inappropriate for this location, because of its impact on an important and sensitive landscape. It risks further pollution of the River Dore and will generate an increase in large HGV movements through the notorious B4348 at Dorstone. There are health risks to the downwind community of Dorstone village and possible cause of annoyance or distress to neighbours.
In my opinion those responsible for considering this application, making recommendations or coming to a decision, should most carefully consider the views and concerns of the majority of the local population. I understand that the applicant has claimed ‘everyone wants cheap meat’ as a basis for his application. This is debatable at least, but to that alleged cheapness should be added the cost of the devaluation of our landscape and the associated costs of the various risks I have outlined.
The financial interests of just one family should not, in my opinion be allowed to push aside the interests and concerns of the whole community. I therefore urge all those concerned to weigh up the true costs and benefits of this planning application and compare them with the costs and losses for the rest of the community of Dorstone and its many visitors.