Councillors have been accused of setting a “very dangerous precedent” after approving a controversial poultry farm proposal for the edge of Sedgeford.
Members of the West Norfolk Council planning committee backed the bid for four sheds on the former Whin Close site following a site visit this lunchtime.
But the decision provoked a furious reaction from objectors, many of whom gathered at the council’s Lynn headquarters for the second time in four days to hear the verdict.
At least one resident appeared to be in tears following the decision.
And Nick Skerritt, landlord of the village’s King William IV pub and chairman of the No to Poultry Factory campaign group, said the decision would lead to more, similar applications.
He said: “They’ve set a very dangerous precedent here. Four sheds today, eight sheds tomorrow. How many more over the next 10 years?”
But Newcome Baker Farms, the company who wanted to build the shed, welcomed the verdict.
They said: “We believe this is a fair decision that recognises that Norfolk is a mixed economy and that farming and tourism can both co-exist and make a positive economic contribution within the region.”
The proposal allowed for four barns, which would accommodate up to 180,000 chickens at any one time, to be built. An initial proposal for eight sheds was withdrawn last year.
A petition of more than 5,500 signatures, plus 370 letters of objection, had been submitted to the council ahead of the debate, against just four letters of support.
But, following the site visit, committee member Don Tyler said he could not see any planning grounds for rejecting the scheme.
Chris Crofts said he recognised that his support for the plan would not be popular, but added: “If you want to be popular, don’t do this job.”
And there were cries of “Rubbish” from the public gallery as Geoffrey Wareham accused objectors of intimidating people who didn’t hold their point of view.
He said: “It’s not the farmers that bully the people. It’s the protestors who bully the people. I will vote for this development and I will be pleased to do so.”
But Avril Wright, who represents the Snettisham ward where the sheds are now set to be built, argued that the development could not be compared with other similar operations elsewhere in the borough, because of its surroundings.
She recommended refusal, claiming that the scheme breached council policies, and warned: “If this application is passed, it’s unlikely to stop at four and we know it.”
And she was particularly unhappy at a lack of information about how waste from the chickens would be dealt with. Officials said that would be covered by an operational permit if one was issued by the Environment Agency.
Sedgeford resident Brian Hall claimed the council had “chickened out” from their responsibilities on the environmental issues.
Objectors to the scheme have been particularly concerned about its potential impact on tourism, though committee chairman Vivienne Spikings said she didn’t believe the sheds would put visitors off.
The developer said afterwards: “We would urge people who are concerned about this proposal to visit the major tourist attractions, towns and villages in Norfolk who have poultry barns right on their doorstep and see for themselves that there is little cause for concern.”
But Mr Skerritt said: “If visitor numbers are reduced, jobs will be lost.”