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Thursday, 02 October 2014

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Cumbrian farmers appeal against slurry lagoon decision

Campaigners are gearing up for another fight against controversial slurry lagoon plans that triggered a record number of objections.

Slurry lagoon photo
Objectors went to Carlisle Civic Centre to hear the original debate

Proposals for a two million gallon storage pond on the outskirts of Longtown were thrown out after Carlisle City Council received more than 1,400 letters and e-mails against the application.

But the couple behind the plans are appealing that decision, arguing that councillors were swayed by “misinformed” objectors.

The proposed site for the lagoon is at Scaurbank Wood, to the north east of Longtown. This is 500 metres – less than a third of a mile – from Lovers’ Lane in Longtown, the nearest residential street.

Robin and Moira Fisher, of Smalmstown, said in their application that the lagoon was needed to “future proof” their business.

They have more than 1,000 cows and are currently able to store 500,000 gallons of slurry, which they say is not enough.

In their appeal document to the Planning Inspectorate, Mr and Mrs Fisher’s representatives state: “It is the appellants’ opinion that the committee have been inappropriately swayed by a misinformed yet vocal objection campaign – a campaign that has supplied the residents of Longtown with factually incorrect information.”

Councillors turned down the application for three reasons:

Concerns about the impact the lagoon would have had on Longtown through odour and pathogens as well as increased traffic;

Fears that the lagoon could pollute the River Esk’s tributaries and affect local biodiversity and groundwater;

Belief that the lagoon was an “inappropriate development” in open countryside.

The Fishers have addressed the reasons for refusal.

In the document they state that traffic and odour would be cut by building the new storage facility compared to their current system.

They also state that councillors ignored expert evidence on pathogens, water pollution and biodiversity and misrepresented planning policy.

News of the appeal has triggered a response in Longtown from people who opposed the original application.

James Bell, the warden of Arthuret Church who works as a research physicist and produced a report into pathogens which was referenced by many objectors, was critical of the latest move.

He said: “Their appeal is an insult to democracy.

“An unmanned open-topped slurry pit located a third of a mile from Longtown residents is wholly irresponsible.”

Malcolm Ward, of Friars Court in Carlisle, was concerned that people’s health could be put at risk.

“The danger is the spread from the lagoon of pathogens,” he said.

“The health and safety of Longtown residents must have 100 per cent priority over the applicants’ business operation.”

The appeal was brought up at a meeting of Arthuret parish council this week, where councillors reaffirmed their objections to the proposal.

Councillor Ray Bloxham, who represents Longtown and Rockcliffe on Carlisle City Council, said: “If people are still of the mind that they are opposed to it they should be making representations by letter.”

A Facebook page set up for objectors to the original plan – entitled Longtown Slurry Lagoon Objections – has also become active again.

Mr and Mrs Fishers’ agent declined to comment.

The Planning Inspectorate is taking written submissions for the appeal.

Full details can be found at www.planningportal.gov.uk

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