Inadequate Environmental Impact Assessment in Intensive Chicken Farming

11 Mar 2021

Planning and Environment, Public Law and Judicial Review

The High Court has quashed a planning permission for an intensive chicken farming facility in Shadingfield, East Suffolk.

In Keating v East Suffolk Council [CO/4377/2020] the Claimant applied for permission to bring a claim for judicial review against the Council following the Council’s grant of planning permission for a poultry production unit with capacity to house some 141,000 broiler chickens on land within the setting of the Grade II* listed Moat Farmhouse in Shadingfield, East Suffolk.

The Claimant’s grounds of challenge included that the Council had failed to consider the direct and indirect effects of the proposed development and its associated operations, namely the effects of the poultry manure produced by the site, and the odour arising from its removal and spreading, contrary to the EIA Directive and EIA Regulations 2017.

In support of this, the Claimant argued that the Applicant’s Environmental Statement failed to include adequate information about the disposal of waste from the facility. Furthermore, its accompanying Odour Impact Assessment focussed exclusively on the odour generated by the poultry houses themselves without assessing the quantity of waste that would be generated by the proposal, how and where the waste generated by the proposal would be disposed of and the effects of the odour caused by the removal or spreading of the waste. 

In light of this, and citing R(Squire) v Shropshire Council [2019] EWCA Civ 888, the Claimant argued that the Planning Committee had inadequate information before it contrary to Schedule 4(1)(d) of the EIA Regulations 2017, which requires the decision maker to have an estimate of the type and quantity of waste produced during the construction and operation phases of the development.

The Council resisted the claim in pre-action correspondence. However, once the claim was issued the Council conceded. Due to the lack of adequate information from the Applicant, the Council had failed to adequately consider the direct and indirect environmental effects of the poultry manure produced by the permitted development and the odour arising from its removal and spreading. The parties agreed to a consent order quashing the claim and awarding the Claimant his costs. On 8 March 2021, the consent order was approved by Timothy Corner QC sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge.

The case serves as another reminder to those involved in any type of intensive farming that post Squire, developers and Councils need to properly assess the odour impacts of the storage and spreading of manure or slurry associated with any proposed developments. They cannot rely on generalised commitments to comply with best practice or fail to identify what exactly will be done with the waste from the facility.

John Fitzsimons represented the Claimant, Thomas Keating. He was instructed by Matthew McFeeley of Richard Buxton Solicitors.

This is a second recent Planning Court success for John. He also recently appeared for the Claimant in Wyeth-Price v Guildford Borough Council and Bewley Homes [2020] EWHC 3355 (Admin). In that case, Ms Wyeth-Price successfully challenged a planning permission for a 73-unit housing development at Ash Manor, Surrey on the basis that the Officer’s Report to Committee had failed to properly advise Planning Committee members about the weight to be given to the harm to heritage assets in the planning balance exercise.