Councillors overturn refusal of new Berwickshire farm building for pigs

Councillors have overturned a decision to refuse planning approval to house 1,000 pigs on a Berwickshire farm.
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A retrospective planning bid for the pig shed on Ravelaw Farm at Whitsome village in Duns was refused by council planners on the grounds it “could potentially exacerbate existing issues, which would negatively impact upon the amenity of nearby residential properties”.

Assistant Scottish Borders Council planning officer Cameron Kirk took into account concerns over odours and noise generated by livestock.

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Farm owner Robert Gaston appealed the refusal before the council’s Local Review Body on Monday.

Ravelaw Farm, Whitsome. Picture: GoogleRavelaw Farm, Whitsome. Picture: Google
Ravelaw Farm, Whitsome. Picture: Google

Mr Gaston said the specific intention of the new building was to house more pigs further away from residential properties and agreed to a limit of 2,000 pigs on the farm.

He has consulted with people living in the area, who he says have been “overwhelmingly supportive”, with the one objection regarding noise and smells coming from someone who does not live in the area.

Mr Gaston and local residents had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding in the aim of improving conditions on the farm.

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Members of the council’s review body paid a site visit to the farm and were impressed by its operation and agreed to overturn the officer’s recommendation and approve the planning bid.

Mid-Berwickshire councillor Donald Moffatt said: “The site visit was very informative. If this application is approved it will improve the situation for the households and the pigs welfare.

“The 1,000 pigs in this shed proposed and the other thousand in the other shed I think that’s going to be a vast improvement on what was there already.”

Hawick and Hermitage’s councillor Jane Cox said: “Having been on the site visit I was really impressed, the farm was well-kept. I think the number of pigs is actually staying the same. Overall I was impressed by the whole development and I’d support overturning the decision.”

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Hawick and Denholm’s councillor Neil Richards added: “I think the residents were initially a bit worried and what the site visit proved is that those fears are not there now and they have come to some sort of agreement with the farmer.”

In his statement Mr Gaston said: “I’ve put up the shed to lower the numbers in the other sheds which are closer to residents’ homes.

“They are all in favour of the pigs being kept in the new shed instead of the numbers increasing again in the sheds closer to their homes.

“We’ve had a few meetings and they all back the shed. There’s also now more feeding space for the pigs. It’s better welfare for them. We have a vet inspection every three months and at the last inspection in November they said they’d never see the pigs looking better, because they have got so much space.

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“While I admit there was an issue with noise/smell over a year ago when we were unable to move the pigs off the farm due to staff issues at processing facilities across the UK this was quickly resolved with the numbers reduced to 2,000.”