The Hartland Planning Application

The Hartland Peninsula – A Jewel in North Devon’s Crown

To quickly glimpse the beauty of The Hartland Peninsula click HERE to read the Management Plan produced by the AONB for the North Devon Coast.

Some of the key attractions of The Hartland Peninsula, both to residents and visitors, are its hedgerows, its rustic verges and its small country lanes that run picturesquely to the Atlantic Ocean or hug the rocky coastline.  Together they help create a beautiful rural landscape that is one of the jewels in North Devon’s Crown – the beautiful North Devon Coast.

This rural landscape is being destroyed by the advent of intensive dairy farming on the Peninsula.

Beckland Farms’ Retrospective Planning Applications

Beckland Farm’s Retrospective Planning Application for the construction of the Slurry Lagoon has the following reference:

1/0046/2012/FULM Retrospective Application for a Slurry Lagoon at Beckland Farm, Hartland

Details of the application and letters of objection so far submitted can be found by registering on the following page of the Torridge District Council (“TDC”) Website: CLICK HERE TO REGISTER ON TDC’S WEBSITE

As of 10th November 2016 nearly 60 letters of objection had been submitted to TDC by local residents and by environmental groups. If you object to the movement of slurry around your home and your community please write a letter of objection to TDC now and email it to TDC.

(Beckland Farm also has another retrospective application in process in connection with the abstraction of water to facilitate the operation of the farm.)

Beckland Farm

We object to the proposed retrospective planning applications for a number of reasons including the following:

The Impact of the Traffic Generated by Beckland Farm

The road traffic prompted by Beckland Farm raises a number of issues:

The Overall Number of Traffic Movements:

Bellamy Transport are consultants acting for Beckland Farm in connection with Beckland Farm’s retrospective planning application.  They have produced a document entitled “Transport Statement” which spells out on Beckland Farm’s behalf the traffic levels anticipated as the result of the construction of the Slurry Lagoon.

The first point to note is that this document is a theoretical calculation of traffic volumes. No attempt was made to canvas the views of the residents in the area who are already experiencing the actual traffic volumes and the consequences of those traffic movements.

In this Transport Statement the consultants admit on Beckland Farm’s behalf that at least 4,130 traffic movements a year will be generated in connection with the movement of slurry from Beckland Farm i.e. at a minimum there will be 4,130 traffic movements of a large tractor and a 4,000 gallon slurry tanker pulled behind the tractor along narrow single track country roads.

However even this extraordinary level of traffic movement significantly understates the traffic impact of Beckland Farm:

  • It does not include the movement of solid waste from Beckland Farm (and we have records that show that at least 700 traffic movements took place in six months in 2016 in connection with the movement of solid waste past one home on the Peninsula).
  • it does not include the movement of cut grass to Beckland Farm (and we have records showing up to 200 traffic movements connected with the movement of cut grass in a single day in one location past one residential home on the Hartland Peninsula and this is a regular & frequent occurrence).

Most importantly we believe that the Traffic Statement understates the traffic movements related to the transport of slurry.

For example having stated that “typically slurry spreading occurs five times a year (i.e. March, early May, mid to late June, late July and mid-September) with four applications for per field being made over a 14 day period between the above dates)” the consultants present as a worst case scenario an average of 13 traffic movements per day on the route to Berry and Markadon Farms. We have records showing substantial traffic movements over this route throughout August a month not even mentioned by the consultants. We have records of more than 70 traffic movements a day for a period of four days or more five times a year with a total of more than 1.3 million gallons of slurry being spread in some six months.

The Consequences of this Volume of Traffic Movements

This volume of traffic is destructive of the road, the verges and the quality of life of the residents..

The roads used to transport muck & slurry from Beckland Farm are regularly left with considerable soil and muck on them after a period of slurry spreading..

The volume and nature of the Beckland traffic is damaging many of the roads on the Peninsula by:

  • Creating or enlarging pot holes in the roads,
  • Breaking the edge of the tarmac making up the roads.

Many of the passing places along the roads used by traffic to and from Beckland Farm have been damaged by the wheels of the tractors and trailers to the extent those passing places are now largely unusable by the ordinary motorist.

The volume and nature of the Beckland traffic is also significantly damaging the verges adjoining the roads.

The traffic implications of the road usage for the residents and visitors to Hartland are substantial – it becomes both difficult and unpleasant for other road users in domestic vehicles when they encounter these large tractors and slurry tankers moving on the roads. At night it can be a particularly challenging proposition because these vehicles are unable to reverse and the drivers of cars must back along unlit tiny single track roads. In the day one is very conscious of the filth on the side of the vehicles and the foul smell emanating from them.

The substantial damage to the roads, the passing places and the verges to which we refer has occurred over the last five years. We have no doubt that the principal cause of the damage is the traffic from Beckland Farm connected with the dumping of muck & slurry on the Hartland Peninsula.

The last place to locate a dairy facility which involves the intensive farming of 1,000 cows is on a small Peninsula with very limited road access, with tiny single track roads, with simply constructed passing places and where tourism is a key industry.

And remember, this is only the beginning. In our opinion there is no doubt that Peter Willes will seek to expand Beckland significantly in the future.

The Offensive Smell Generated

The dumping of the quantities of muck & slurry generated by a herd of 1,000 cows farmed intensively also generates very offensive smells for considerable periods of time. These smells adversely affect the residents in terms of the enjoyment of their homes, their gardens and their surrounding environment.

Given the strength of the smell and the duration that smell pervades the air this smell is without question a nuisance.

The Health Implications

Their are adverse health implications for the residents when such large quantities of muck & slurry are dumped so frequently on the land close to homes.

Although this has been denied for some years by the relevant authorities in the UK  it is now becoming clear that the concern of residents is being validated by research belated being carried out on behalf of the authorities in other countries.

The actions and motives of the owner of Beckland Farm

Mr Willes has acquired a farm on the Hartland Peninsula and over a period of years has increased the number of animals being farmed on that farm by something like a factor of four.

He has made a sequence of applications to extend the facilities on a piece meal basis. For example in 2008 he was successful in applying for permission for a Agricultural Cubicle and Storage Building 2511 square metres in size. His Design Access Statement includes the following statements:

“Slurry and dirty water would be managed by the capacity of the existing system in place.”

“The site is accessed through the farmyard and would not generate additional traffic to or from the public highway.”

Those two statements were factually incorrect as has been demonstrated by the current retrospective application and the traffic movements on the Hartland Peninsula. However it should be noted that it was on the basis of these statements that the planning permission for Agricultural Cubicle and Storage Building was granted.

The Statement also includes the following statement:

“The building is to be used to provide accommodation for 200 dry dairy cows.”

This number of additional cows would have taken the overall herd to 800. Beckland now states that there are 1,000 cattle at Beckland Farm with no further buildings having been constructed. We believe that the building built in 2008 now houses at least 400 wet cows.

What Mr Willes has done is to purchase a farm and then increase the number of animals being farmed on that facility by gradually increasing the number of buildings on the farm and by changing the way in which he farms.

Having been granted permission to construct the additional buildings on the basis that the slurry and dirty water facilities were adequate, he fills the buildings with dairy cows (not the dry cows claimed when seeking planning permission in 2008.). Then he claims that the slurry facilities are inadequate for the number of animals now on the farm and seeks to justify the grant of planning permission for a slurry lagoon which is wholly out of proportion with the previous use of the farm.

The Slurry Lagoon at Beckland Farm, Taken March 2012

We fear that no sooner will the permission for the slurry lagoon be granted than he will increase the number of cows being farmed and seek other planning permissions to gradually develop the facility. He is seeking to gain by stealth what he would never be granted if he made a single application.

In 2011 Mr Willes pleaded guilty and was fined £23,190 for three environmental offences at Beckland including allowing controlled wasted to be deposited without a permit at Beckland and causing slurry and milk to enter a stream and a further charge of allowing effluent in another stream.

By his conduct he has shown that he is not concerned with the consequences of his activities upon the community on the Hartland Peninsula.

There is no greater demonstration of Mr Willes’s indifference to the regulations affecting Beckland farm or to his neighbours than the construction of the slurry lagoon without the planning permission which is now sought. It would be disgraceful if his indifference to the community were to be rewarded with the grant of the retrospective planning permission.

According to Mr Marsden, the farm manager at Beckland Farm, the relevant regulations require four month storage of slurry. According to the planning application, Beckland is building a facility to give six months storage. A slurry lagoon of the proposed size would enable Beckland to store for four months the volume of slurry produced by a significantly greater number of cows than Beckland Farm is currently capable of housing.  Further substantial expansion of Beckland Farm is then possible.

Because the existing slurry storage is insufficient, it is imperative that Beckland be required to immediately reduce the size of the herd at Beckland to, say, 500 cows so that the existing facilities are sufficient.

The owner of Beckland Farm has committed a breach of regulations in increasing the herd without adequate slurry facilities, he should not now be rewarded by TDC approving the grant of additional facilities because he has abused the planning process.

The issue of Beckland Farms current use and future development is a key issue for the community on the Hartland Peninsula.

We urge every member of the community to email or write to Torridge District Council and object to the proposed retrospective planning application.