Impact on battlefield halts chicken shed plan

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PLANS for a free-range chicken farm near Branxton and the Flodden battlefield have been firmly rejected by local councillors.

At last Thursday’s north area planning committee meeting in Alnwick, county councillors unanimously rejected an outline plan to house up to 24,000 free range chickens on land close to the historic battle site at Flodden Field.

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 the outline planning permission to build a shed for the birds west of Branxton Buildings - just a quarter of a mile from the battlefield. The site would then have been franchised to Derbyshire-based poultry producer John Bowler.

Some of the objection letters claimed it would be ‘inconsiderable and 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, the council’s planning team had recommended that the plan be approved by councillors when it went before them, originally on July 7.

At that meeting members decided to hold site visits before making a decision on the scheme, and it was deferred until last week.

Members of the north area planning committee visited the proposed site of the unit, as well as the Flodden battlefield site and a free range chicken farm near Belford.

And, at last Thursday’s meeting, the councillors unanimously went against the officer’s recommendation 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.

In the planning officer’s report which went before the committee it stated: “Whilst the site does not sit within the designated are 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 the applicant 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.

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

The Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Rev Stephen Platten and the local vicar, the Rev Linda Gardham, had also objected to the scheme, which would have seen a 151m by 20m building be erected following reserved matters planning approval.