Blighting the coast

NORTHUMBERLAND – fresh air, clean water and wide-open spaces.

Dunstanburgh Castle and Embleton Bay stand as shining examples of the historic and natural landscape which draws tourists to this county.

Our cows live in fields and badgers roam the countryside oblivious of the impending cull that their southern cousins may soon face.

At present, tourism, farming and wildlife bump along together fairly happily in this corner of Northumberland (save the recurring stench of Agrivert on August Bank Holiday weekend).

However, decision day approaches. Tonight, planners will decide whether to keep this happy balance or allow a new player onto the coastal strip.

The farmer needs a large industrial indoor calf-fattening facility, we are told. His business must expand, we are told. This is the only place, we are told.

At seven days old, the unwanted male calves from dairy herds around the country will arrive at Dunstan Steads farm. They will be fed by machine until fat enough to be shipped to another farm at Duns for more fattening.

Then, having barely seen the light of day or a blade of grass in their short lives, they will be slaughtered, the meat boiled from their bones and sold to McDonalds.

It is not for me or the planners to judge the morality of the enterprise. However, the wider impact on public health, wildlife and our local economy must be considered very carefully.

This farm has the potential to introduce bovine TB to Northumberland (the calves can not be tested as they are too young).

Slurry from the animals can pollute the water course with pathogens such as salmonella, e-coli and cryptosporidium, antibiotics, hormones and heavy metals.

Salmonella, e-coli and cryptosporidium can be fatal, especially to children and older people.

The Health Protection Agency say that they are so infectious that they can be caught simply by swimming in a contaminated stream. Embleton Burn runs adjacent to the site of this new industry.

Where the burn meets the sea, in Embleton Bay, is not only a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), it is the most popular place on the beach for children to play in the summer.

Just for good measure, this industrial unit is to be on a quiet, narrow country lane, on one of the only access roads to the beach and in the middle of the AONB.

It will blight views of Dunstanburgh Castle, it will increase dangerous heavy traffic along Sustrans Route 1 (an important European cycle route), and it is right in the middle of a red squirrel colony.

I believe that the application poses a serious threat to our economy, our health and our wildlife and should not go ahead.

You can show your support or otherwise by attending the planning committee meeting at 6pm tonight, April 5, in the Council Chamber on Clayport Street, Alnwick.

Michael Townsend

by email