South Norfolk vineyard owner submits rabbit farm plans

The owner of a south Norfolk vineyard has moved to reassure neighbours over plans that could result in the creation of a rabbit farm.

The popularity of rabbit meat, promoted by some celebrity chefs, has resulted in the proposals at the Tas Valley Vineyard at Forncett St Peter, near Long Stratton.

The owner of the site has submitted the diversification plans to South Norfolk Council following the failure of the farm's grape crops over the last two years.

Proposals at the vineyard, off Overwood Lane, include a new agricultural building for a hydroponic unit, rainwater harvesting tank, and three polytunnels to intensively grow barley grass for the livestock.

Philip Kerry, of Lincolnshire-based T & S Nurseries, which owns the farm, said the operation would be a 'small affair' with around 250 doe rabbits or about 1,000 chickens. He added that the company also had similar plans for a site at Lower Gresham in North Norfolk.

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'We are a national chain and we had proposals for some rabbit farms, but because of media pressure, we have abandoned the cage system in favour of more free range style and we are working with Southampton University to try and design an outdoor system.'

'There is a huge demand for rabbit meat because it is a very healthy meat and it is tasty and ticks all the boxes. Wild rabbit is too fit and healthy and the meat has too much sinew. We could have rabbits, poultry, or a combination,' he said.

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Sales of rabbit meat have gone up after celebrity chefs Nigella Lawson and Nigel Slater used it in recipes in their most recent television series.

Mr Kerry added that the diversification scheme would result in a minimal amount of traffic generation and the animals would be fenced in. He added that he did not need planning permission to have livestock on the site.

However, the plans for the 1.4ha (3.4acres) vineyard have caused some concern locally because no mention of rabbits has been made in the planning application.

South Norfolk Council officers have also asked for more information regarding the loss of some of the vineyard, the size of the proposed agricultural building, and the type of livestock proposed at the farm.

Forncett Parish Council voted in favour of the proposals at a meeting last week saying that there were no planning reasons to object to the scheme.

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