Methwold poultry unit plans given green light

David Hunt has designed the new Methwold village sign and unveiled it earlier this month.
David Hunt has designed the new Methwold village sign and unveiled it earlier this month.

Plans for a poultry unit in Methwold which could hold up to 300,000 young chickens have been approved by council officials.

The application for the unit, made up of six individual sheds, on land at Methwold Airfield on Brandon Road, was given the green light by West Norfolk Council’s planning committee at a meeting on Monday.

Applicant James Webb, managing director of J W Spencer Farms Ltd, told the meeting that the family business had been started by his grandfather in the 1930s, and the farm had now identified a demand for poultry had been increasing.

Mr Webb said the farm had mainly been in the vegetable and potato farming business in the past.

He said: “This will help our family firm remain viable and create more jobs too.

“Producing poultry locally reduces the reliance on importing.”

Agent Brian Barrow said the proposal was for a “state of the art” poultry unit, and said there was a lack of newer sites for this type of farming, as the majority were built in the 60s and 70s.

According to a report to the committee, the site is sheltered from wider public view although it is on a Public Right of Way (PROW).

The report goes on to say: “The PROW however finishes at a dead end and is therefore not heavily used if used at all.”

It also says that the young chickens (broilers) will be purchased as day-old chicks and will be a mixture of males and females.

The females will be removed from the site at approximately 38-days-old and the males at 42-days-old.

But some committee members raised questions about the conditions the animals would be living in.

Avril Wright said: “It would be wonderful if it was something that was free range, but this feels like it is going back in time.”

But Andrew Morrison said: “I hate to disagree with councillor Wright but these are free range chickens which will be in barns and not in cages.”

“I’m afraid in this day and age, when people come to buy their food, there is a big price difference between free range chicken and normal British-sourced ones,” committee chairman Vivienne Spikings said.

“We must go with local produce,” she added.

The planning committee voted to approve the application for the poultry unit.