A CAMPAIGN group has vowed to keep up the fight after councillors approved plans to build a 32,000-hen egg production facility to the west of Winchester.

Crabwood Action Group (CAG) has slammed the decision, questioning the process which led to the proposal being approved at last week’s Winchester City Council planning committee.

Last Thursday, councillors agreed with planning officers’ recommendation to allow the development, off Sarum Road, almost unanimously, with just one abstention.

The decision on the scheme – submitted by Sam Burge, who runs Vale Farm in Sarum Road – means a 140-metre-long unit would be created on the land near the Crab Wood Nature Reserve.

It is planned that the facility, replacing Vale Farm’s now ceased six-year pig rearing operation, will operate on a daily basis, with Mr Burge saying plans will be put in place to stop smells and noise affecting residents.

However, CAB have slammed the decision. A spokesman for the group told the Chronicle: “It seems that for whatever reason or reasons Winchester City Council have placed the economic interests of one individual above that of the wellbeing of Winchester residents and the environment.

“The decision made by the planning committee is most definitely not in the public interest. Winchester residents and the local ecology will suffer as a result of the harmful emissions and reduced air quality that this development will bring. Animal welfare issues have also been ignored as they are not seen to be a material planning consideration.

“It is our opinion that throughout the process misleading, incorrect and incomplete information has been relied on and used in an inappropriate way. We believe the planning process has been deeply flawed in its implementation and is certainly not representative of genuine public concerns.”

The spokesman went on to say they would be “pursuing this further” and felt let down by councillors and planning officers.

The CAG spokesman also said: “We remain very supportive of British farming but are certain that an intensive operation such as this should be placed in actual open countryside well away from people, recreational areas and sensitive ecological sites.

“It seems incomprehensible that a generational farmer with a significant amount of land would want to place this in the midst of his local community, albeit not adjacent to his own property.”

However, Mr Burge defended his plans, saying a lot of money and time had been put into researching the proposal.

He said: “It’s hard to call it misleading when I’ve invited the public to the site. I have been transparent.”

In response to claims of misleading information, he referred to images of lorries stuck in country lanes and chickens on the CAB Facebook page.

He added: “We are pleased but not surprised the application was granted.

“I’m still happy to work with people.”

As previously reported, the scheme received nearly 160 letters of objection, with senders including Sparsholt Parish Council, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, the Woodland Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Speaking in July, he told the Chronicle he had met with campaigners on numerous occasions, answering their questions and inviting them on site visits.

He also stressed that the new facility would not be a “chicken factory”, and that high welfare standards would be maintained. Mr Burge added that concerns over smell and noise had been answered by the “facts” in the planning application, saying that residents would not be affected. Issues over the visual impact were also addressed, with Mr Burge saying 1,200 trees will be planted to screen the site.