CONTROVERSIAL plans to build sheds to house up to 2,000 pigs at a County Durham farm are set to be decided next week.

The row over the proposed development in New Brancepeth, near Durham, has been ongoing for more than two years, when the first application for a piggery at Biggin Farm was made.

Hundreds of residents from New Brancepeth and surrounding areas have written to Durham County Council to object to the plans because of fears about intensive pig farming and the smell, noise and environmental impact of the development.

The Northern Echo: Biggin Farm, near BrancepethBiggin Farm, near Brancepeth

Planning officers have now recommended the plans, submitted by tenant farmer Tim Bates, be refused by councillors next week.

The applicant says the proposed development is needed to make the farm economically viable and said the buildings would provide "sustainable, efficient, welfare friendly accommodation" for the animals.

Residents are already experiencing the effects of living next to a pig farm, with more than 1,000 kept at Hill House Farm, which is next to Biggin Farm. Both farms are owned by G & M Westgarth, of Newsham, North Yorkshire.

Earlier this year, a new livestock shed was built to house up to 820 pigs at Hill House Farm, which also had about 1,000 pigs kept in existing buildings.

That development was able to go ahead under “permitted development rights” because it was below the size threshold that would trigger it needing planning permission.

The current application follows another application – for sheds to house up to 4,000 pigs – which was withdrawn in March 2018.

Objecting to the proposal to be decided next week, Helen Leaver, who lives nearby, said: “I live near the farms in question and have now had several years of worry, noise, odour, flies and general discomfort in living, because of the changes made already in bringing pigs here factory style.

“The character of this beautiful area and its offering of recreation to an increasingly stressed population are immensely important. The possibility of a huge, ugly animal factory stuck in full view in the middle of it is unthinkable.”

The council has been sent 466 letters from residents, Brandon and Byshottles Parish Council and other organisations, as well a further 753 identical letters.

A statement by ARM buildings, on behalf of the applicant, said: “The buildings have been sensitively placed within the farmland to minimise impact on the surrounding landscape and ensure efficient farm workings. The buildings will provide sustainable, efficient, welfare friendly accommodation for the livestock in line with the clients’ current practises.”

Council planners have recommended the proposal is refused because they say the building would be an unacceptable encroachment into the countryside, while insufficient information had been provided to show there would not be an adverse impact on nature interests.

The application will be heard at County Hall on Tuesday.