Villagers rally to battle cattle farm

A COASTAL community is preparing to fight plans for a cattle-rearing operation, including a steel-framed livestock building, effluent tank and temporary accommodation, on a farm between Embleton and Craster.

An application has been lodged with Northumberland County Council by Berwickshire-based farmer Ivor Gaston for the 408-acre Dunstan Steads Farm, which was previously arable land.

The original farmhouse, cottages and buildings were separated from the farm in 1997 by the original owners and converted to residential use, while the land continued to operate as an agricultural holding until 2009. The new operation proposes to continue growing grain, which will be used to feed around 200 calves housed on-site in a specially-built rearing shed.

But locals say the re-development of the site will have a profound effect on their quality of life, as well as the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), which forms part of the local coastline.

A petition with 416 names – made up of 118 local people and 298 visitors – has been sent to the county council, with a further 40 letters of objection.

Michael Townsend, who is a director of the Dunstanburgh Castle Hotel at Embleton, said: “We have a number of serious concerns, which are also felt by visitors to the area. The view is going to be blighted, while the peace and tranquility of one of the best AONBs is going to be lost due to increased vehicle movements along a narrow, winding road, which is part of the national Sustrans cycling route.

“The traditional farming use for that land is arable, which is a very different style of farming to what is proposed.

“This is industrial-scale farming that relies on the indoor fattening of cattle.

“Our main concern is that this is going to damage the tourist product of this area and a small percentage drop in that leads to a big impact on the local economy.”

In a statement to planners, the applicant says: “The farming operations are currently being changed on this holding, having previously operated as an arable unit which in later years produced a single crop on the whole acreage.

“The present owners wish to restore the unit to a more traditional mixed farm, producing mixed arable crops and grass for feeding to livestock.

“These changes in the farming system and operation justify the requirement of a dwelling in close proximity to the livestock, thereby allowing pastoral care and welfare of animals.”

Craster Parish Council discussed the plans last night.

See next week’s Gazette for an update.