Three Herefordshire farms can install boilers powered by chicken droppings to heat their chicken sheds.

These will replace woodchip boilers at three farms on the 700-acre Whittern Farms estate near Lyonshall, which produces 5.5 million broiler chickens a year for Avara Poultry of Hereford.

Herefordshire Council this week approved the three separate applications for Holly Bush Farm, Brook Farm and Hunton Farm, the latter two being retrospective.

These were granted on condition that air scrubbers are installed before the boilers come into use, and that they burn only litter from the adjacent chicken sheds.


All three will have extensions attached to the existing boiler buildings, of the same steel cladding, in order to store the litter prior to burning. A further condition prevents the litter being stored outside.

The stores will operate in a negative-pressure environment, with air sucked from the building through the boiler in order to prevent escape of odours and ammonia gas.

The three together will burn nearly 5,000 tonnes of chicken litter a year, which will heat the 22 chicken sheds across the three farms.

The litter is currently sold to local farmers and anaerobic digestion plants. Chicken litter spread on fields has been identified as a cause of pollution in the river Wye and its tributaries.

“The proposed development will significantly reduce the HGV and farm vehicle movements to and from the site, and will significantly reduce the environmental impact of chicken broiler production in the immediate and wider environment,” the applications said.

“These are substantial steps towards carbon neutrality, whilst also improving air and water quality locally by reducing emissions from the site.”

The new poultry litter burners will be regulated under an environmental permit, as the current woodchip boilers are.

Ash from burning the litter, rich in phosphate and potash, will amount to 8-10 per cent by weight of the litter coming into the boilers.

This “can be easily transported, typically to arable farms further east, and spread as an alternative to artificial fertiliser”, the applications said.

“This has the potential significantly to reduce the phosphate run-off to watercourses and rivers in the Lugg and Wye catchments.”

Site tests by an independent consultant showed the replacement boilers “will generate lower airborne and ammonia emissions” than their predecessors, the applications said.

However conservation charity Herefordshire CPRE claimed the case for the switch bringing environmental improvements “has not been made for several reasons”, including a failure to consider the combined effects of emissions from the boilers, and “a total lack of validation” of the modelling used by the emissions consultant.