The farm behind a controversial bid to set up a large intensive chicken-rearing unit by a Herefordshire river has defended the plan.

Hergest Camp Farm in Lower Hergest near Kington already raises over 30,000 turkeys at a time in six ventilated sheds.

Now its owner T L Whittall Ltd of Mochas has applied to the Environment Agency (EA) to change its permit in order to switch production to 215,000 broiler chickens per production cycle.

“The switch from turkey to chicken farming will use the same houses, will significantly reducing farm emissions and have only a limited effect on existing vehicle numbers accessing the site,” the farm’s owner Owen Whittall said.

“The feed needed and manure produced are broadly comparable. All litter produced on site will be removed and most will be sold to third-party farmers as happens already.

“Overall, I expect my farm’s impact to reduce as a result of this change.”


But nearby resident Leanda Darling, a graphics designer, said: “We are really concerned. It’s a tiny road to the farm but they want lorries on it 24-seven.”

Neighbours are also concerned about potentially harmful levels of airborne ammonia from the chicken manure, given the sheds’ extractor fans are downwind of them.

The river Arrow, a tributary of the Lugg, is within 100m of the farm, while there are a number of other local wildlife sites and ancient woodlands within 2 kilometres, according to a report submitted with the application.

But it concludes: “When compared with the existing poultry houses, the (ammonia) modelling predicts that there would be a significant reduction in impacts at all of the wildlife sites.”

“We were never told about this proposal, no one knows it’s happening,” Ms Darling said. “It would destroy our lives.”

But Mr Whittall maintained: “I have personally spoken to nearby residents and councillors about the details.”

Ward councillor Terry James described the application as “a back-handed way to gain permission, with serious implications”.

“The way the Environment Agency have handled this is unacceptable – they have done very little other than stick up a notice,” he said.

A spokesperson for the EA said: “The Environment Agency will only issue an environmental permit once it is satisfied the applicant can comply with the International European Standard for the intensive rearing of poultry or pigs.

“We review the risk of pollution from intensive farms impacting nearby watercourses and make the necessary checks to infrastructure to ensure that polluting water is properly contained and safely removed.”

Litter from farm would also be regulated by the site’s permit, the spokesperson added, while given the nearby houses, the operator “would be expected to have robust management plans for odour and noise”.