The “Stop the Limavady Pig Factory” residents group in Northern Ireland started campaigning in 2017 against the then largest planning application for a pig farm in the UK which proposed a facility for 2,700 breeding sows with the potential to produce over 81,000 pigs a year!
Yes that’s right – over 81,000 pigs a year from a single location.
A quick introduction to the issue is a three minute video of a local farmer (Victor Lusby) who would be affected by the proposed Pig Factory. The video was filmed early in 2017 and is well worth watching as it sets out the issues with great clarity. It can be accessed on the following web page : http://www.natures-keepers.org/northernireland/portfolio/vincent-lusby/
(Another mega pig farm planning application has recently been lodged in Northern Ireland which is even bigger than the proposed Limavady industrial scale pig farm.)
The Limavady campaigners have spent the past year trying to find out how the Planning System works, the role of Statutory Consultees and why many campaigns against industrial scale farm planning applications have failed. We realised quite quickly that we were not alone as there were multiple campaign groups across Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the UK all trying to figure out how they can stop these mega farms.
The Limavady campaigners started Petitions and got lots of people to lodge Planning Objections. We got substantial media coverage for their campaign in local, regional and national newspapers, magazines and TV. Our Facebook page is an important means of keeping the community informed.
We have focused on developing a coalition with other NGO groups who could help us. So far we have had widespread support from Friends of the Earth, the Soil Association, Farms Not Factories, Save Our Antibiotics and Viva. Our campaign has also attracted Planning Objections from the RSPB, Atlantic Salmon Trust as well as local Angling Clubs and the NI Badger Group.
Despite all these herculean efforts by the Limavady campaign group, we realised that other campaigns had undertaken similar tactics and failed. Even when other campaigns had won, i.e. they had prompted a refusal from the Planning Committee or Council, there was still the risk of losing at a Planning Appeal. We noted that the only option if we lost at that stage was the costly and uncertain process of a Judicial Review and the only positive outcome from a Judicial Review is to force a reassessment of the case because the Judicial Review cannot in itself change the outcome but merely prompt the relevant authority to look at the application again.
Therefore, the Limavady campaigners have turned their attention on the Statutory Consultees who provide advice to the Planners, the Planning Committees and to the Planning Inspectorate. Through Freedom of Information requests we have reviewed multiple planning cases and have noted that many of the Statutory Consultees have failed to carry out robust assessments as prescribed by their published Policies and Legislation. By challenging these Statutory Consultee assessments, we have unintentionally prevented cases getting as far as the relevant Planning Committee.
When we started we had no knowledge of the Planning process, Environmental Legislation, Traffic Assessment Procedures, Public Health issues and Assessments, European Protected Sites and Ammonia emissions and depositions. To our dismay we discovered that many of the Statutory Consultees were not up to speed either. Our campaign group has met with the Northern Ireland Statutory Consultees and provided them with research evidence which has influenced policy across the UK especially regarding Bioaerosol Emissions and distance to sensitive receptors from land spreading of slurry.
The Limavady group realise that we are not experts but that expertise and experience resides in the various campaign groups across the UK and further afield. We realise that there is an urgent need to share this expertise and experience and that various groups have started this process by hosting workshops and conferences which is great. As many of these groups are geographically isolated this presents barriers to participating. However, there may be an opportunity to provide an online resource for groups to share information and experience.
We need to share campaign messages across the UK to change the Statutory Consultees’ policies and procedures particularly those of the Public Health and Environment Agencies from Scotland, England & Wales and Northern Ireland which meet and set national Critical Threshold Criteria.
We have to figure out how to fight an issue across campaigns as we are weaker fighting an issue on a case by case basis. We are wasting too much community effort and goodwill by implementing tried and failed campaign tactics. We need to work smarter not harder! And we need to work together.
We are joining with Too Much Slurry in trying to place the issue of intensive farming well and truly on the national agenda. We share Too Much Slurry’s belief that, together, we can change the regulatory environment and the planning process and we urge all those affected by the slurry, digestate, stenches and traffic pollution of intensive farming to register with Too Much Slurry now.
Each of the campaign groups needs to share our local problem with the group so that together we can decide what we need to do.