INTENSIVE POULTRY UNITS (IPUs)
Did you know that, according to our calculations, as at July 2019, in the counties of Shropshire, Herefordshhire and Powys there are 500 farms with a total of 1,420 intensive poultry units/sheds, containing over 44 million birds?
A major threat to Shropshire’s countryside (and that of our neighbouring counties of Herefordshire and Radnorshire) today is the rapid growth in the intensive livestock industry, which is generating a wave of industrial complexes across the rural landscape.
Their visual impact is not the only concern: like many other industrial operations, intensive livestock units produce many undesirable impacts, which in any other industry would be confined to a brownfield site.
In Shropshire there have been a few successful Judicial Reviews which have resulted in the quashing of planning permission for some IPUs. The applications sometimes then get re-determined. The longest running of these cases is the Footbridge Farm, Tasley, Bridgnorth IPU, An appeal against refusal was heard on 11 January 2023 and the result is still awaited.
Pollution of rivers, particularly of the River Wye, has attracted wide-spread publicity in early 2023 and a civil claim against poultry farmers is now being considered.
Mapping IPUs in the Marches Area - a joint exercise with CPRE Herefordshire, CPRW Brecon & Radnorshire and the Wildlife Trusts
Background Environmental organisations are concerned by the growth and proliferation of Intensive Livestock Units (ILUs) within the UK, particularly the impacts of ammonia, nitrogen deposition and phosphates on biodiversity and human health, and the consequent deterioration of rural living conditions and our treasured rural landscapes.
Their concerns include, but are not limited to:
• Pollution of water such as streams, rivers and ponds, affecting freshwater ecosystems;• impacts of ammonia emissions on lower plants and plant diversity, and the resulting damage to ecosystems including those within Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Ancient Woodland and other designated nature sites;
• Air pollution affecting our own health;
• Foul odours and heavy traffic on narrow rural lanes;
• The impacts of industrial-scale development on rural landscapes, including those designated as AONBS (Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and National Parks.
This is a problem which knows no borders, and especially as the headwaters of some of Britain’s iconic rivers – the Wye and the Severn – lie in Powys, then both rivers run through Herefordshire and Shropshire with tributaries in Shropshire from the Clun, Onny, and Teme in the south.
There have been a number of articles in the press recently discussing these issues. (Some external links are given below. See also Shared Concerns With Other Local Non-Governmental Organisations on the CPRW Brecon & Radnorshire website.)
In Spring 2019, four of the NGOs who have these concerns met in Shropshire to discuss the issue: the Herefordshire and Shropshire branches of Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), Shropshire Wildlife Trust (SWT) and the Radnor and Brecon branch of Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales (CPRW).
At the meeting we discussed our common concerns with ILUs but focused on Intensive Poultry Units (IPUs), particularly Intensive Chicken Units, which are becoming widespread throughout Herefordshire, Shropshire and Powys.
Producing the IPU maps
CPRW already have a database of IPUs in Powys and have published various maps on their website illustrating the issue in our county. CPRE Shropshire and Herefordshire, along with the SWT also have been developing a comprehensive record of IPUs in their own counties.
It was agreed at the meeting to form a combined CPRE/CPRW team to rationalise and consolidate the various IPU datasets across the counties, and to build on CPRW’s work by developing some combined maps from this data to illustrate the IPU issues across the three counties.
We have now produced our first combined cross-border IPU maps, with data to hand as at July 2019 - see the links listed below (these links take you to the Campaign to Protect Rural Wales website - all maps show data from Herefordshire, Shropshire and Powys)
5 - Intensive Chicken Farms - interactive map with data on individual farms already in production or where planning applications have been made.
Planning and IPUs
Planning in England is determined by the National Planning Policy Framework.
The Environment Agency categorises intensive livestock units as industrial installations and the planning system recognises their huge potential impacts on the environment: an intensive poultry development to house more than 85,000 broiler birds, or 6,000 egg layers fall under Schedule One of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011, the same category as a new airport or a nuclear power plant. (An average broiler units houses 45,000 to 50,000 birds and most planning applications are for four or more units so most intensive poultry units fall under Schedule One, as does any pig unit that houses more than 3,000 pigs for fattening). Schedule One developments require an Environmental Impact Statement.
An Environmental Impact Statement (EIA) must contain a non technical summary setting out the findings of the assessments in an accessible way. The statement should be an impartial document. The EIA regs do not require that every impact is assessed, but only the signficant impact. Normally, an EIA would containa noise assessment, odour impact assessment, landscape and visual assessment, historical impact, environmental statement, arboricultural impact statement, traffic, cumuliative effects and a manure plan.
As a result of a High Court judgement in Wealden District v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Shropshire Council concluded that due to emissions from intensive livestock units, they need to be considered in combination with other activities to ensure that damage does not occur to SSI designations. Shropshire council produced a guidance note GN2 assessing the impact of ammonia and nitrogen on designated sites and Natural Assets from new and expanding livestock units (LSUs). See summary here.
But there is an anomaly in the planning system: because intensive livestock units are considered to be farm diversification, there is a presumption that they should be located in the countryside.
Planning applications for intensive livestock developments will address the most significant impacts - traffic, noise, odour, dust, and so on - but because the principle that such development is allowed in rural areas is already established, planning authorities are obliged to agree ways of reducing the harm and can only refuse planning permission if it would not be possible to mitigate the harm to the landscape and environment. Mitigate does not mean prevent or avoid, it means reduce to an unspecified degree.
As a consequence, to comment adequately demands a considerable amount of time, often requiring research of comparable applications and decisions. An objection needs to be related to current local and or national planning policies.
See also the Planning News page for details about the campaign at Tasley.
Increased traffic from IPUs
The broiler industry adds very large vehicle movements (one 4-shed development can generate up to 3,000 HGV movements) on to our roads every year: the eggs are laid on one farm and then delivered to a hatchery in another part of the county, day old chicks are delivered to the broiler units on farms across the region where they grow for around four weeks before being transported to abattoirs for slaughter and processing. The finished products are then delivered to their final destination, which may be abroad.
But it is the taxpayer who pays for the highway improvements and maintenance needed to support all this traffic. Farmers do not pay business rates on intensive livestock buildings.
Waste and water courses
CPRE is also very concerned about the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste produced by poultry units in Shropshire and surrounding counties. Much of this is spread on fields as fertiliser with the risk that nutrients and toxins get into the rivers, causing pollution. The growth in the industry has coincided with a rise in phosphate levels in some of our rivers. Poultry litter contains more phosphorus than any other farm manure as well as arsenic and other residues.
The intensity of the production process increases every year as the industry produces birds that reach “maturity” ever more quickly. The broiler industry is predicting that by 2020, chickens will reach “table-weight” just 19 days from hatching. This can only increase the amounts of manure produced.
CPRE (in particular our sister branch in Herefordshire) is campaigning for a change in planning policy to recognise that intensive livestock units are industrial development, with impacts as harmful as other large industries, and that they should be located on brownfield land with good transport connections, away from people’s homes and on sites where the landscape would not be harmed. Basically, not in the open countryside.
We would like the industry to re-think its model and operate more sustainably by locating all the different processes - egg-laying, hatching, growing, feed production and so on - if not in a single location, at least in close proximity to one another.
If you become aware of an application in the area and require CPRE Shropshire’s advice, please give us as much notice as possible to allow the production of a suitable objection.
(Words and image reproduced with grateful thanks to CPRE Herefordshire)
Updated April 2023
Intensive Chicken Production Units in Herefordshire, Shropshire & Powys - click on
the image for further detail, or click here.
Shropshire IPU Case Study
Tasley Chicken Farm
A local action group, Tasley Chicken Factory Farm Action Group, is involved in an ongoing fight against a planning application to build four large commercial broiler poultry sheds (300 feet long x 80 feet wide), processing 1.5 million chickens a year close to the town of Bridgnorth.
Following a successful legal challenge in the Court of Appeal, Shropshire Council’s original decision to approve the intensive chicken farm at Tasley was quashed in early summer 2019.
However, a revised planning application has been submitted and Shropshire Council must now decide on the planning application again.
Click here for more information and to donate to the crowdfunding appeal or here for a detailed guide on how to object to the planning application (information supplied by the Tasley Chicken Farm Action Group, 17/6/19).
For the significance of the Tasley Court of Appeal (2019) decision, please see here.
Find the Tasley action group on Facebook at https://m.facebook.com/tasleychickenfarmactiongroup/