Free range chicken unit approved to house 32,000 hens in Hickling

Free range chickens in Norfolk.
Photo Simon Finlay.

Free range chickens in Norfolk. Photo Simon Finlay.

A free range chicken unit will be built in Hickling after being approved, in spite of almost 60 objections.

The chicken barn, measuring 2,689 sq m, will house 32,000 hens in a 40-acre field at Poplar Farm in Sutton Road.

The applicant, a family-run business Norman Farming Partnership, headed-up by Robert Norman, is already operational, but wants to expand into producing free range eggs.

The plans were approved, as per the officers' recommendation, by North Norfolk District Council's development committee on Thursday, July 6.

Objections had been raised largely on the grounds of smell, dust and noise.

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The application was supported by Attleborough's Crowshall Veterinary Services, which cares for a vast amount of poultry in East Anglia.

Philip Hammond, from the surgery, said: 'The future demand for free range eggs is escalating, and is very important to the economy of East Anglia.

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'These facilities conform to a very high standard, and allow the hens the ability to range naturally, fulfilling one of the five key welfare freedoms.'

This argument was backed by Anglia Free Range Eggs' Harry Irwin, who said: 'The free range egg market is growing and we expect this trend to continue. This means that modern, high welfare free range farms are needed to meet customer demand.'

However, concerns were raised by retired GP, Dr Lily Game, who said: 'The field the birds are allowed to roam in will rapidly become covered with faeces, urine, dead skin and feathers.

'Also, I understand the hen unit can be very unpleasant, consisting of mainly ammonia and hydrogen sulphide, both of these are known to be very acrid with exceedingly pungent smells.

'As a retired general medical practitioner, I am very concerned that this scheme will adversely affect the health and general well-being of the people of Hickling.'

Other complaints related to the value of houses in the area falling, as well as road congestion and a negative effect on tourism.

Mr Stacey, of The Green, Hickling, said: 'People will not choose to holiday, live in or visit a village that has a very large hen unit so close to the centre.'

However, Hickling Parish Council withdrew its objection, following the submission of additional information by the applicant.

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