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High Court Rejects Odour Objections to Poultry Farm Planning Permission

Countryside smells are recognised by planners to be a fact of rural life. In a case on point, the High Court upheld planning permission granted for an intensive poultry farm despite a campaigner’s concerns about unpleasant odours.

farmA farmer wished to construct two poultry sheds, with a capacity for 82,500 birds, on his land. Birds would be fattened for slaughter in cycles lasting about 35 days before the sheds were cleaned out and a new flock brought in. Planning permission was refused by the local authority, but that decision was subsequently reversed after the farmer appealed to a central government planning inspector.

The inspector found that odours coming from the site would be quite intense whilst the sheds were being cleaned at the end of each cycle. However, such smells would not persist for long and the farmer had carried out a robust assessment of potential odour impacts. Independent consultants had concluded that odour concentrations would be within acceptable limits.

The farmer was bound by conditions attached to an environmental permit, issued by the Environment Agency, and the inspector found that there would be no significant harm to the living conditions of neighbours arising from the proposal in respect of odour or noise. In challenging the planning permission, however, the campaigner argued that poultry farms had proliferated in the relevant area and that objectors’ concerns were not being taken seriously.

In ruling on the matter, the Court agreed that the inspector was mistaken when he said that the doors to one of the sheds would face away from neighbours’ homes. However, that error had made no material difference to the outcome. In dismissing the woman’s complaints, the Court found that the inspector gave adequate reasons for his decision and had properly understood technical evidence concerning odour concentrations. The woman lived 10 miles away from the farm and in any event lacked the legal standing required to challenge the inspector’s decision.