THE immediate fate of 44 pigs seized by a council amid animal welfare concerns will be subject of a contested court hearing next week.

Pork products businessman David Cottrell is challenging the seizure of the pigs from a site in Manor Road, Medomsley, near Consett, by Durham County Council, on November 21.

The council claims the pigs were removed as an independent vet had fears over “potential suffering” if they remained on site.

It followed concerns raised over the conditions in which they were being kept at the site.

Mr Cottrell, 52, of Sandringham Road, Whickham, Gateshead, wants to take back possession of the pigs, as some are said to be ready for sale at market or for slaughter.

The welfare issue is to be the subject of separate proceedings before magistrates later this month.

But, an appeal is to be heard over the issue of their seizure at Durham Crown Court.

Judge Christopher Prince said the appeal needs to be heard as soon as possible, as the court was told it is costing the council “well into the thousands” to look after them in the meantime.

He adjourned the hearing for a week for the appeal to be listed next Thursday.