FARM PLANS: The site near Hutton Magna
FARM PLANS: The site near Hutton Magna

AN appeal against a decision to reject controversial proposals to build a slurry lagoon near a dale village has been heard by a planning inspector.

AWSM Farms had planned to build three buildings, a storage lagoon and a weighbridge to create a blending plant and laboratory.

It would create fertiliser for agricultural use on land to the west of Lane Head farm, near Hutton Magna.

However, the proposals were rejected by Durham County Council in June last year. Some 89 people and seven parish councils objected to the development with many complaining about flies and smells coming from the site.

AWSM Farms appealed against the refusal and more than 20 residents from Hutton Magna attended the public hearing on Tuesday, October 30, at The Witham, in Barnard Castle.

Planning inspector Mel Middleton heard representations from Durham County Council, the Environment Agency and environmental health officers, as well as Adam Metcalfe, owner AWSM Farms.

AWSM Farms wants to import farm and food waste into Hutton Magna to turn into fertiliser. But when it was refused by Durham County Council’s planning committee, councillors said the development did not fulfill an established need and would result in unnecessary transportation of waste into the county. They said it was in direct conflict with the local waste plan. They also said the development would be inappropriate in the countryside.

During last week’s hearing, Mr Middleton questioned all parties and asked if there were any other plants of this nature already in the area. He asked where the waste to be blended would come from.

Gary Swarbrick, from ELG Planning, on behalf of AWSM Farms, said 60 per cent of farm waste would come from Mr Metcalfe’s farms and farms within a 15-mile radius. He added: “Initially the food waste would come from other areas such as East Yorkshire.”

He added the scheme would help in diversifying the farm by producing biogas from the blending plant and allow Mr Metcalfe to produce fertiliser for use on his farm land.

Chris Shields, planning officer for Durham County Council, said food waste would have to be brought in from other counties and at present only three per cent of food waste produced in the county went to landfill.

Residents were worried about the potential environmental damage such a plant could have on the area. However, Mr Middleton pointed out it was difficult for him to address this area as the environment agency had not gone into this already. The Environment Agency did not oppose the development.

Hutton Magna resident Dave Moore told the planning inspector: ““I am not objecting to this. I am asking if there would be any odour from this.

“If we live where we live with pig farms and the like you get smells. If you don’t like it, move.

“I am getting on a bit and this is for the environment. To use waste materials to make gas and I am thinking about future generations and I believe this is a step forward to provide gas.”

Another resident Jill Sellars, said: “The smell was awful and it made us want to leave the village. It just made you want to vomit – it was that bad.”

Another villager said he worried that in building the development it was allowing food manufacturers to continue producing too much and it would only increase the amount of waste when a reduction in food production was needed.

The hearing closed after a site visit and Mr Middleton said he would review all the evidence. A decision on the appeal is expected shortly.