A “CLOSED doors” planning decision by Herefordshire Council has been overturned at the High Court.

The council gave the go ahead for four giant poultry houses - each the length of a football pitch - at Penrhos, near Kington, under delegated powers without taking the application to a public committee hearing.

But in doing so, the High Court was told that the council failed to comply with several legal obligations, including requirements to consider the impact of the development on a listed building and the landscape, or to evaluate the cumulative effect of chicken shed developments across the countryside.

The council conceded a case for judicial review, accepting that it had erred in granting planning approval.

 In consenting to the High Court judgement the council agreed to pay undisclosed costs.

The council used delegated powers to approve the sheds in March despite strong opposition from locals, who said that the application was in breach of the council’s own policy that such buildings should be at least 400m away from homes – when the nearest homes were less than 200m away and Grade II* listed Penrhos Court just 300m away.

Objectors also raised concerns about noise, smell and traffic from the proposed development  given the impact on tourism, a mainstay of the local area.

But Herefordshire Council said the application would support the activities of Cargill Meats which plans to invest £35m in upgrading its Hereford plant and has been encouraging to put up poultry units.

The council has approved around 20 sheds over the past year, the biggest of which have the potential to produce 50,000 chickens for slaughter every 42 days.

At Penrhos, each shed – or broiler unit -  would have been 110m long, 20m wide and 5.2m high, with each producing 435,000 chickens each year.

An application to the High Court for Judicial Review was made by Janet Srodzinski, whose home, Penrhos House, is one of those near the sheds.

“The development would have been devastating for me, I would have been looking straight at it from my house,” she said.

In accepting its error in granting approval, the council agreed to pay Mrs Srodzinski’s costs.

Sarah Hanson of Marches Planning Consultancy, which represented Mrs Srodzinski, said:

“Planning laws are there to protect our landscape, our heritage and people’s homes from inappropriate development.

"These poultry units are effectively industrial development and councils need to think carefully about where they should be allowed.”