Call for support in Embleton barn row

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Your readers may recall the shock and horror expressed in your letters page at planning permission being granted in April this year for an industrial calf-rearing complex at Dunstan Steads, Embleton.

The latest news is that, following a unanimous vote, Embleton Parish Council joined me in Judicial Review proceedings, which were begun last month.

Since then, a small Action Group of Embletonian residents and visitors has begun raising money for our ‘fighting fund’.

It is most regrettable that such a draconian process must be entered into in an attempt to right what is regarded as a grievous wrong but that is where we are. Let me amplify what the case is about for the benefit of your readers.

There were huge numbers of objectors to the proposed scheme and not a single letter of support in the planning file. The strength of feeling behind the action results from the nature of what is proposed and how it threatens the community and its economy.

The tactics for securing planning permission are also of concern. It is well known that planning permission for new residential property in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is difficult to achieve. This is especially so where, as in this case, a Grade 1 listed building, Dunstanburgh Castle, is a prominent and affected feature.

Traditional farming doesn’t pose a threat and co-exists very well in the Northumberland Coast AONB. At Dunstan Steads, during the many years the farm was owned by Northumberland Estates, visiting contractors undertook the planting and harvesting of crops.

The farm’s new owner, however, having failed to obtain planning permission for a farmhouse, came up with something unheard of in these parts.

He proposed a development to accommodate shipped-in successive batches of week-old dairy bull calves. These will be indoor reared as beef cattle until they are around three months old when they’ll be transported to his other farm in Scotland for onward rearing.

By this means, he has obtained planning permission for temporary farmworkers’ accommodation (a mobile home) as a precursor to a new farmhouse and it is contended that the process by which planning permission was granted was legally flawed. This will be for the judge to decide.

It is also of concern that an expert has calculated that to be economically viable as a calf-rearing operation the proposed development would have to be much larger.

Thus it is feared that the facilities to be built between Embleton and Dunstanburgh Castle could merely be the thin end of the wedge whether at the hands of the applicant or a subsequent owner of the site.

A further concern is the risk, however small, of the introduction of Bovine TB to Northumberland. The county is not a dairy cattle region and is currently free of the disease. The source of the calves is not clear and such young calves cannot be tested for the disease.

So far, the applicant does not appear to have begun the works at the site to any noticeable extent. That is his choice.

He has planning permission unless and until it is quashed by the courts.

It is very worrying, however, that he has recently applied for the removal of the planning conditions which attach to the planning permission.

This gives the impression of a lack of concern for our environment and what it means to those who live and work in it as well as those who visit the area for recreation.

By way of just one example, the planners imposed a greatly watered down condition relating to ‘darkskies’ (light pollution) from that asked for, quite properly, by the AONB Partnership. The applicant has applied to have even this removed such that his operation could emit unrestricted amounts of light and so destroy the wonderful moonlight views of the castle which are a unique feature of the area.

The action group would welcome the help and support of Gazette readers in any suitable form. To know more they should contact me via dainsley@dunstansteads.org.uk

David Ainsley,

Embleton