STINKS and squeals from a pig farm are blighting people's lives, a planning meeting heard.

Residents said they could no longer open their windows or enjoy their gardens because of the stench and noise from pigs at Biggin Farm.

Councillors were shown a photograph said to include a giant pile of pig dung at the farm at New Brancepeth, Durham.

Durham County Council's planning committee heard of nearby residents' concerns this week.

Helen Heward from the Eshwood and Hareholm Residential Group said there were 10 homes within 400m of the farm buildings.

She told councillors: "It's fair to say that their lives have been blighted by the use of these barns to house pigs.

"The residents are currently living with the impacts day in day out.

"They have to endure the smell and sound of 650 pigs. They cannot sit in their garden at any time due to the smell."

"The squeal of piglets turns into the scream of pigs. There's no reprieve. It's 24 hours a day.

"Residents can't open their windows, have guests in their garden, hang their washing out.

"One resident explained to me that workmen have refused to work on their house because the noise was so distressing and the smell was so horrendous."

She said at its worst the noise, likened to crying children, meant residents could not talk or take calls in their homes.

The committee was not considering a planning application to build a pig farm, but to install concrete panels at two agricultural buildings - one used to house pigs, the other as a grain store.

The application was "retrospective" as the alterations had already been made.

Objectors said the concrete panels enabled keeping pigs by enclosing them.

Councillor Marion Wilson said: "Living conditions are intolerable due to the noise and smell from the pigs kept in this area.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Marion Wilson. Picture: Durham County Council.Cllr Marion Wilson. Picture: Durham County Council.

"This application, if granted, will cause a massive loss of quality of life for every resident in the Deerness Valley."

Cllr Dan Nicholls said the barns would "facilitate use for industrial pig farming at enormous scale, which would have devastating consequences for the communities I represent".

The Northern Echo: Cllr Dan Nicholls. Picture: Durham County Council.Cllr Dan Nicholls. Picture: Durham County Council.

Cllr Jonathan Elmer said the impact of the pigs on locals and the environment was "potentially catastrophic", including a population explosion of flies, water pollution, traffic congestion and hazards, greenhouse gases and disturbance to protected bats.

He pointed to a "large brown mass" on an aerial photo which he said was a pile of pig faeces: "You can see the scale of that."

He also spoke of ammonia from pig urine harming woodland: "People have to breathe that.

"All residents have experienced the unbearable impact of this pig-housing."

The Northern Echo:  Cllr Jonathan Elmer. Picture: Paul Norris. Cllr Jonathan Elmer. Picture: Paul Norris.

Brandon and Byshottles Parish Council also objected and there were 16 letters from residents.

They raised concerns over noise and smell nuisance, slurry, heavy traffic, harm to the quality of the environment and people's enjoyment of the Deerness Valley.

The Woodland Trust objected over the impact on nearby ancient woodlands and ammonia pollution.

Council planning officers said they could not refuse the plan on the grounds of impact on residents.

They said they were not looking at the use of the existing agricultural buildings for pig farming, as this was lawful and outside their control.

They argued they could only consider the installation of the concrete panels, which they recommended for approval.

Officers said the buildings could be used for keeping pigs with or without the panels, and the developer said they would be, with or without planning permission.

Objectors brought in planning law solicitor Tim Axe, who said the council made a "fundamental error".

He said the impact of the buildings' use must be considered, otherwise the council's decision would be unlawful.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Carl Marshall. Picture: Northern Echo.Cllr Carl Marshall. Picture: Northern Echo. (Image: Northern Echo, Newsquest)

Cllr Carl Marshall suggested refusing the plan to "stand behind the residents".

He said: "It has a direct impact on their lives. I don't support the application."

He also suggested the council take the "strictest possible enforcement action" on noise and smell nuisance.

Councillors voted to reject the plan.


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