Councillors to go on 'smell trip' for controversial dairy unit plans

Wellingham parishioners protesting dairy unit plans

Some 63pc of parishioners in the tiny Norfolk community of Wellingham gathered on Sunday to protest the plans. - Credit: Wellingham Parish Council

Councillors have delayed their verdict on allowing a controversial new dairy unit to be built, so that they can investigate how much it will smell.

They are planning a trip to the site later this month, as part of their decision-making process on a planning application for a 350-cow dairy unit in Wellingham, near Fakenham. 

More than 40 letters of objection have been sent into Breckland Council by residents fearing not only the unit’s odour, but also its visual and traffic impacts - with parish councillor Ross Donaldson claiming the village is fighting a “David and Goliath” battle to stop it. 

The narrow country lane from which the dairy farm would be accessed - pictured in June 2009. 

The narrow country lane from which the dairy unit would be accessed - pictured in June 2009. - Credit: Google

The application, made by Lincolnshire-based George Thompson (Farms) Ltd, would see the construction of a cattle house, milking parlour, yard building, general purpose building, feed store, feed bin, milk silo, slurry lagoon, attenuation pond and new access, south of the village.

At a February meeting of the council’s planning committee, an officer said: “People just going about their daily business in their cars, and also people who use this route for walking, cycling, dog-walking… they will be able to smell the development. 

Breckland Council has voted to extend the Breckland Bridge Partnership. Picture: Archant

A decision on the planning application was deferred at a February meeting of Breckland Council's planning committee - Credit: IAN BURT

“And when you’re getting closer to the development, that odour is anticipated to be quite strong, so it will harm that recreational-type activity in that area.”

She added that officers had concluded this harm was acceptable, because there was no designated right of way or country park within reach of the odour, and it would be outweighed by the scheme’s economic benefits. 

In an impassioned speech, Wellingham resident James Rivett QC said the plans would do “damage to a village which has existed for 1,000 years”.

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Nick Moys, an agent speaking on behalf of the applicants, said the unit would be well screened by trees, and that traffic movements generated by it would be minimal. 

An aerial view showing the proposed dairy unit - on the red-shaded area - and Wellingham to the north. 

An aerial view showing the proposed dairy unit - on the red-shaded area - and Wellingham to the north. - Credit: Google

On the question of smells, he said: “Having read through the report, I have to say that I think that the data that we’ve provided about odour has been misinterpreted, and therefore we’re very concerned that the findings of the planning officer that there will be some harm to recreational users of that road are incorrect.”

He urged members to defer the application so they could the visit the site, and the company’s existing unit at nearby Tittleshall, to judge the smell for themselves - which they voted to do.

Addressing the committee, chairman Nigel Wilkin said: “There’s a lot of cows waiting to be milked, and it’s all down to you guys.”