DAIRY FARM DILEMMA: New supplier of Ben and Jerry's spark concerns
Dairy farmers near Eccleshall has been chosen to supply milk to global ice cream company Ben and Jerry’s – but plans to create a new slurry lagoon as part of their enterprise have sparked concerns.
The Fentons, who started on one of Staffordshire County Council’s farm holdings, have now taken on a site at Garmelow.
They have submitted four applications to Stafford Borough Council, seeking permission for a new milking parlour and dairy, cubicle shed for cattle, a silage clamp and excavation and embankments to form a slurry lagoon.
The final two applications have been called in by ward councillor Jeremy Pert for the council’s planning committee to discuss their impact on the environment, local water courses and the neighbouring area.
And a local resident, John Court, also raised concerns about the proposed location of the slurry lagoon and silage clamp on land north of Kempsage Lane at Wednesday’s planning committee meeting.
Committee members heard that the Environment Agency and the lead local flood authority had not raised any objections in response to the details they had received.
Mr Court said: “Post-Brexit is a good time for brave new enterprises, so good on them I say.
“But the Environment Agency were asked to consider the risk of flooding on high ground on the south side of Kempsage Lane, which never floods. The flood map for the footprint of the lagoon on the north side of the lane shows medium to high flood risk.
“I’ve lived on Kempsage Lane for 49 years and seen the site flooded many times – even paddled my canoe on it. Had the flood risk maps been picked up on the proposal would have been stopped at that point.
“A lagoon the size of two Olympic swimming pools is to be built with earth sides just 750mm above the surface of the field. Only the clay lining of the lagoon is waterproof, so soil saturated from outside will be compromised.
“Last month a storm left the footprint of the lagoon flooded to over welly-depth. Floods are likely to overwhelm the low sides of the lagoon, mixing flood water with slurry and parlour washings.
“A toxic mix could find its way through the drain flowing under the lagoon. This is an ecological disaster waiting to happen. Can we risk that? There may be a safe site away from drains, but this isn’t it.”
David Collier, an agent who spoke in support of the application, told the meeting the proposed slurry lagoon would be an essential component of the family dairy farm.
He added: “The Fentons started on a Staffordshire County Farm and progressed to another in Cheshire. Their establishment of this unit will represent progression everyone wants from the county farm system.
“Mr and Mrs Fenton have achieved many accolades in the dairy industry for animal health, welfare, silage and the quality of their cows. They were recently selected to supply milk to Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream – one of only 12 farmers chosen nationally – for their attention to detail and high quality.
“They’re dedicated to farming and extremely passionate about feeding the nation, as well as providing a future for their three sons. They’re keen to become part of the community and welcome anyone who wants to know about farming.
“They extensively researched the best possible design for the farm, and after much consideration concluded that the proposal is ideal, both environmentally and agriculturally. Particular care was required in regard to the proposed slurry lagoon, as poorly constructed or managed lagoons can cause water pollution.
“The site for the proposed lagoon was chosen because it affords easy access to the fields, minimising tractor traffic on the highway. It’s possible to work with the current field levels, minimising landscape change.
“Soil analysis showed there was a good soil structure for the construction of a safe lagoon. It’s well away from the source protection zone, overhead and underground cables, high water table and wetter land elsewhere on the farm.”
Committee members approved the silage clamp application but voted to defer their decision on the slurry lagoon to allow further information on flood risks to come forward.
Words: Kerry Ashdown, Local Democracy Reporter
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