Row over poultry units in Breckland

A disagreement has broken out between an award-winning farm and Breckland Council planning officials over a series of poultry units.

Traditional Norfolk Poultry (TNP), based at Shropham, near Attleborough, was issued with an enforcement notice by the authority after it erected three green polytunnels, a temporary polystyrene structure often used to grow plants that require a higher temperature, three feed hoppers used to store poultry feed and a “roadway”.

In the notice, dated October 19, the council said the site represented “operational development”, and that an assessment was needed to determine if it would have any affect on a nearby area of special protection.

But director of TNP, Mark Gorton, said he was under the impression no permission was needed and argued other farms had established larger, similar structures with no planning applications.

“Nobody from the council could really give us clear information and there seems to be a big grey area around polytunnels,” he said. “They’re not permanent buildings and have no foundations or concrete - they’re posts and polythene covers so as far as we’re concerned it’s a temporary building and we didn’t need planning permission.

“You also don’t have to drive very far in Norfolk to see pig and cattle farms and they all have a feed hopper - you have to have them - but again, I’ve never heard of them needing planning permission - it’s unbelievable.”

Breckland Council ward member for Wayland, Philip Cowen, said he had received complaints from his constituents about the traffic travelling to and from the site, which he said affected a number of villages.

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“These are forest lanes and narrow in width and the result is the shoulders of these lanes are being brought down and there is a significant amount being damaged,” he said.

“Then of course Peddars Way is a European long-distance footpath and loved by ramblers and walkers and horse riders and it’s causing concern for their safety along that right of way.

“There is a need for planning approval for this kind of development on this scale and the records I’ve seen at Breckland show Traditional Norfolk Poultry, through the agent, sought advice from Breckland and were told they would need planning approval - there is unequivocal evidence showing that is the case.”

Wretham Parish clerk, Julian Gibson, said the village had also been affected by an increase in traffic and damage to country roads.

He added: “I think the real problem is that nobody has had a chance to say they object to it because there has been no application.”

Mr Gorton said that while TNP had spoken to Breckland officials, he was never told planning permission was needed and added that the “water has been muddied” by new pig sheds at nearby Watering Farm.

The notice will come into force, if not appealed, by November 30 from which time TNP would have three months to remove the structures. Mr Gorton said the company was taking advice from its lawyers.