‘I’d scrap Sedgeford poultry farm plan if objectors could prove smell claim’, boss tells meeting

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
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The boss of the company behind a controversial poultry farm plan has said he would scrap it if critics could prove it would be as damaging as they claim.

William Barber, managing director of Newcome-Baker Farms, made the comment as parish councillors in Heacham voted to object to the proposed development in nearby Sedgeford.

Several Sedgeford residents attended Thursday’s meeting of the Heacham parish council’s lighting and watching committee, where the plan for the Whin Close site, off Docking Road, was debated.

As previously reported, Newcome-Baker Farms are seeking planning permission to build four poultry sheds, which would accommodate around 150,000 birds at a time, on the site.

And, in a passionate defence of the scheme, Mr Barber said that evidence from some of Norfolk’s leading tourism businesses which are located close to similar facilities showed concerns about the potential impact of odours from the sheds on the tourist trade were unfounded.

He asked: “Why are we so worried about something that never happens?

“If people could show me that I would wake up every morning and smell chicken manure, I would pull it tomorrow.

“Nobody has shown me one shred of evidence that would be the case.”

But Nick Skerritt, chairman of the No To Poultry Factory action group, said he remained deeply concerned that tourists would stop visiting the area if it was perceived to smell because of the poultry farm and the industry would suffer accordingly.

He said: “I’ve been accused of scaremongering. I’m not. I’m just genuinely concerned about what this could do to this area.”

Dr Mark Blunt, an intensive care consultant at Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, also set out his concerns, based on the potential health implications of dust and particle emissions and the use of antibiotics in the poultry industry and the associated development of resistance.

He said he was already seeing signs of growing resistance to antibiotics among patients and warned that trend is likely to worsen.

But Mr Barber said the poultry industry was reducing its use of antibiotics, largely because of the financial implications of keeping birds who are given them for longer.

He added that he didn’t believe the dust from the sheds would be as severe as from other forms of agriculture.