Nocton plans withdrawn after Environment Agency objection

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01 March 2011

After months of controversy regarding plans for what the media dubbed a ‘super dairy’, the planning application for the UK’s largest dairy farm at Nocton, in Lincolnshire, has been withdrawn.


The team behind the proposal, Nocton Dairies, issued a press release citing the Environment Agency’s continuing objection to the plans for a 3,770-cow dairy unit in Lincolnshire as the sole reason for the withdrawal. The EA’s grounds were ‘lack of information about risks posed to the aquifer underlying the site and uncertainty about the extent of the benefits associated with the change in land use’, said the statement.


It went on to say that this ‘precautionary stance’ and the requests for new information ‘reflect unfamiliarity with agriculture in general and the design of the modern dairy farm in particular. Despite our best efforts to address these concerns, including an additional investment of £4 million in engineering the management of the waste to unprecedented standards, lack of relevant research has made it impossible to provide the reassurances required by the Environment Agency that livestock farming is an appropriate use of land at this site’.


The application was mired in controversy from the first, when plans for an 8,100-cow unit drew widespread, predominantly negative, media coverage and provoked a campaign by both local residents and environmental and animal welfare groups to prevent the unit being approved. Chief among the campaigners was the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), along with Compassion in World Farming, the Soil Association and Friends of the Earth.


Support for the plans came from the NFU, whose president Peter Kendall said large-scale dairies like Nocton could provide a blueprint for low carbon footprint dairying, and farming minister Jim Paice. Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference in October last year, Mr Paice said opposed ‘this principled knee jerk reaction that says big must be wrong…  All the advice we have had is that welfare issues are not a function of scale. They are a function of husbandry and of quality of management’.


Nocton Dairies has called on other farmers to take up the gauntlet of large-scale units, and it looks unlikely that theirs will be the last such application in the UK, where the pressure to produce milk as cost effectively as possible continues to increase.


William Neville, of Burges Salmon, the Bristol-based law firm which assisted with the purchase of the farm and the planning application, said the farm at Nocton was a tremendous site with much potential for the future.

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