Fattening shed for 900 pigs turning Draperstown family’s country dream ‘into a nightmare’

The Kennedy's home looks straight on to the field earmarked for the shed
The Kennedy's home looks straight on to the field earmarked for the shed

A Draperstown mum has said her country ‘dream may be turning into a nightmare’ if the application for a pig fattening shed in the field in front of her home is passed.

Mid Ulster District Council received a planning request for the building, which will hold 900 pigs, in 2014.

The family's front window overlooks the 'pig shed' field

The family's front window overlooks the 'pig shed' field

But Loretta Kennedy, whose home faces directly onto the field marked out for it, was beside herself when explaining how its approval will impact on her family’s life.

Mum to four boys under 10, she said: “It would just affect our lives so much. The smell, the noise, the rats and even if we wanted to sell up and move, who’s going to want to buy a house next to a pig farm.

“My main concerns are the noise and the smell. Everyone says to me that pigs are just rotten. And when there’s that much feed there will be an increase in rats.

“I don’t know what’s going to be out there when my boys are playing in the garden, and the next thing there’s a rat crawling around the place.

Family worried about smell, rodents and traffic congestion

Family worried about smell, rodents and traffic congestion

“We don’t get much summer here, but when we do, it’s nice to be outside.

“But I can’t go outside in that smell. Hang out my washing and have dinner outside.

“It’s bad enough when they’re spraying cow slurry... but that’s just par for the course. They were here before I was was, but the pigs weren’t.

“Everyone has to make a living,” she continued, “but it’s not just going to affect me and my family. It’s going to affect everyone in the area.”

As well as the health and environmental concerns, Loretta has also raised the issue of the one lane road leading to the Cahore Road site.

“If I go round that bend and meet a lorry, there’s no layby,” she went on. “I just don’t see how it’s going to work.”

“It was now or never,” with the petition, she said. “I just felt that I had to do something. I don’t want people to hate me because of it.

“I have lived here 10 years, but we have been in the house seven.

“Even if it ticks all the boxes. It’s still 900 pigs in a shed at the bottom of my [front] garden.”

What the authorities say

Mid Ulster District Council’s Planning Committee has yet to consider the application for a pig fattening shed near Draperstown, to which some objections have been received.

A spokesperson for the council said: “The council has received an application for a proposed pig fattening shed with feed bin, which is still under consideration.

“To date one objection and one petition containing 65 signatures have been received.”

Upset that Department of the Environment’s Planning Response Team, which was asked about the environmental impact of such a shed, appears to have given the shed the green light “subject to recommendations” in a “desk based response” dated January 18, Loretta said she was forced to take matters into her own hands by posting the petition on Change.org.

The Mail asked whether it is usual to permit such a structure without visiting the site, and in repsonse DOE, speaking in behalf of NIEA said: “The DOE is not making a decision or giving the proposal the green light. This is responsibility of the planning authority in the council. DOE responds on environmental matters for which it has responsibility, to enable the planning authority within the councils to determine applications [and] is one of a number of statutory consultees in the planning process.”

But they did admit that their officers had not visited the site before coming to a decision.

“NIEA has access to a wide range of environmental datasets and aerial photography within our Geographical Information Systems which are used to help inform our consideration of planning applications and associated environmental impacts. Often this information when combined with information submitted by the applicant negates the need for NIEA to undertake a site visit.

“In relation to application H/2014/0399/F, NIEA was consulted by the council on a number of separate occasions for our comment on water, industrial pollution and natural heritage issues. All information presented to us was considered using our technical knowledge, published research and guidance. Our responses, which are publicly available on the planning portal, indicated we were satisfied that the development as proposed can be properly managed to avoid adverse impacts on the environment, if the developer adheres to its submitted plans. We made recommendations so that, should planning permission be granted by the council, the developer is clear on its responsibilities and these can be enforced.

“The use of our information sources highlighted the potential for aerial emissions to impact on valuable habitats and we highlighted this in one of our responses. The applicant subsequently produced additional emission modelling information which we considered prior to issuing our response indicating we had no concerns subject to recommendations. These type of Air Quality Assessments are based on computer modelling and we do not need to undertake site visits to assess them.”