A solicitor’s letter sent to councillors prior to them rejecting a 270,000 bird “chicken prison” near Grantham could have been seen as “threatening” and “intimidating” a planning chairman has said.
Councillors at South Kesteven District Council voted against the plans from ADAS UK which would have seen a six-shed farm built at High Dike, in Great Ponton.
Chairman Councillor Bob Adams said he was “disappointed” the applicant had sent a letter from a solicitor, which included “legal opinion” on the decision.
He said it “could be interpreted by a lay person as threatening and intimidating” and hoped it was sent in good faith.
He added that it was a “difficult decision” and that councillors were “between a rock and a hard place.”
The letter, written by Alison Ogley from Walker Morris LLP and sent to councillors by Sean Molyneux from ADAS, said refusal could potentially “constitute unreasonable behaviour on the part of the council and give rise to a costs application at appeal”.
In the email, Mr Molyneux said: “The proposed development is in full accordance with the relevant policies of the development plan and national policy, and should be approved without delay.”
Members deferred the decision in January saying they were minded to reject the plans.
Their reasons included the impact on the landscape, concerns over ammonia and pollution and the public perception.
Council officers, however, again recommended approval warning that there would be an “extremely high” likelihood of appeal following refusal.
Despite agonising over officers’ advice, councillors rejected the application over concerns regarding the impact of ammonia on nearby ancient woodland – a point which had been raised by the Woodland Trust.
Councillor Penny Milne said: “It’s irreplaceable ancient woodland and landscape we are talking about.
She felt the plans did not comply with planning policies.
Councillor Phil Dilks said the application should be considered as “industrial” rather than agricultural or rural.
“I appreciate that it’s not for us to say where might be a better site, but it is for us to say whether this is the wrong site,” he said.
Councillor Chris Benn said he lived near a chicken farm and his ward residents had not had any complaints or detrimental impacts.
If the application does go to appeal, councillors were warned the Woodland Trust would not have the resources to help the authority defend its decision.
Following refusal, councillors called on the applicant to work with the authority to find a suitable alternative site.
Prior to the meeting, the head teacher of a nearby school told the council some parents had threatened to remove their children, he said its existence was “under threat”.
Councillors were told there was no evidence this could happen.
Campaigners from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) have previously described the plan as “cruel”.
A 25,000 signature petition was submitted opposing the plan.
However, Kenny Dhillon, the agent for applicant Steward Adams, at the time urged people to engage with the developers and do their research.
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