Sedgeford poultry plan ‘seems madness’, says doctor

Map showing the site of the proposed new Whin Close poultry farm near Sedgeford
Map showing the site of the proposed new Whin Close poultry farm near Sedgeford

Plans to build a poultry farm close to a West Norfolk village have been condemned as “madness” by a hospital consultant.

The claim was made during a parish council planning meeting to discuss the controversial proposal for the former Whin Close site, off Docking Road, Sedgeford on Monday.

But, after more than an hour of public comments, the council voted to defer its decision to allow its members more time to study the application.

A decision on whether to support or object to the scheme is now set to be made at the full council meeting on January 20.

Around 30 people attended the meeting at the village hall, with most of those who spoke opposing the scheme.

Among them was Dr Mark Blunt, a consultant at Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, who expressed concern about the potential health impact, both from dust particles and the possible growth of antibiotic resistance caused by their use in the poultry industry.

He said: “If I wanted to design a mechanism for generating antibiotic resistance, this is pretty much the most efficient model I could come up with.”

He said he was particularly worried about the impact on elderly people, given the area’s large elderly population.

He added: “I just think putting this in an area with an elderly population, I’m sorry but I’m afraid that’s what you are, just seems madness to me.”

Nick Skerritt, chairman of the No to Poultry Factory Action Group, claimed the scheme could set “a dangerous precedent” of similar applications if planning permission is granted.

Opponents fear the scheme could have major implications for the local tourism industry, particularly if odours from the units are spread across the area.

And Mr Skerritt, who owns the King William pub, said: “This could be the beginning of the end of West Norfolk as a tourist attraction.”

But Jonathan Barber, who runs two local tourism businesses and whose brother William is managing director of Newcome-Baker Farms, accused objectors of misrepresenting the plan.

He described a leaflet distributed to residents, which included a picture of an Australian poultry farm as an illustration of what is proposed, as “totally misleading” and pleaded for a “fair, reasoned discussion” of the proposal.

He said: “I don’t have a problem with the poultry factory. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to.”

Mr Barber also insisted he did not believe the plan would damage the tourism industry and dismissed a suggestion he was moving one of his own enterprises because of the plan.

He said he had spoken to managers of several tourism businesses situated to other poultry farms in Norfolk, who had told him they had not received any complaints about odours, while evidence from more than 30 villages with similar farms in their vicinity also showed no concerns.

He also claimed that arguments the scheme should be rejected because of a lack of economic benefits were an “argument against farming.”

One resident said much of the objectors’ case against the plan was “conjecture.”

But an opponent from nearby Fring accused the company of treating residents there “like peasants” by failing to properly notify them of the plans.