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Farmer builds mega slurry lake in protected landscape

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: February 24, 2012

  • NO PERMISSION: The new slurry pit, which is the size of 11 Olympic swimming pools, at Beckland Farm near Hartland. Picture: Mike Southon. Ref: BNMS20120209B-003_C

  • PROTECTED: Beckland Farm is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Picture: Mike Southon. Ref: BNMS20120209B-007_C

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A MASSIVE slurry lagoon has been built without planning consent on farmland near the South West Coast Path.

The huge pit, 300ft long and 150ft wide, can hold 29,000 cubic metres of farm slurry.

That's the equivalent of 11 Olympic-size swimming pools of liquid manure.

Torridge District Council has now received a retrospective planning application for the lagoon at Beckland Farm, near Hartland.

The farm lies in the North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and in a Coastal Protection Area.

The applicant is Peter Willes, who owns North Devon cheese business Parkham Farms.

He was also involved in controversial plans for a so-called mega-dairy in Norfolk last year.

Last year Mr Willes applied for permission to build a 31,200 cubic metre slurry lagoon on a different part of the farm.

But that application was withdrawn in October following a number of objections.

In December work began on constructing the lagoon for which permission is now being sought.

Torridge District Council was told last year that Beckland Farm has a herd of 1,000 Holstein dairy cows.

At that time the farm had the capacity to store slurry for only six weeks – ten weeks short of the minimum required by the Environment Agency.

The new lagoon will allow slurry to be stored for six months.

But the Ramblers' Association has written to express unease about the application.

In a letter the organisation said a footpath runs near the lagoon and it is concerned with the health and safety of walkers using the footpath.

The previous application was described by Hartland Parish Council as "environmentally insensitive" in an Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty.

The council expressed concern about the size of the slurry lagoon and the increase in traffic involved in the export of excess slurry.

The latest application is due to be discussed at Hartland Parish Council's meeting tonight.

Last year's application was also opposed by the owners of nearby properties.

The National Trust, which owns land nearby, also objected to the previous application, as did the Torridge District Group of the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

Nobody from Parkham Farm wanted to comment on the application.

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  • DeborahW1  |  February 26 2012, 11:26PM

    Why is nothing being done to control Willes? This kind of behaviour brings farming and farmers into disrepute. There is still another Willes-related retrospective planning application outstanding for an earlier slurry lagoon - that one at Higher Alminstone Farm. What would be real news is to hear that he'd built one to plan with permission actually granted first!

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  • DeborahW1  |  February 26 2012, 11:26PM

    Why is nothing being done to control Willes? This kind of behaviour brings farming and farmers into disrepute. There is still another Willes-related retrospective planning application outstanding for an earlier slurry lagoon - that one at Higher Alminstone Farm. What would be real news is to hear that he'd built one to plan with permission actually granted first!

    |   -2
  • DeborahW1  |  February 26 2012, 11:26PM

    Why is nothing being done to control Willes? This kind of behaviour brings farming and farmers into disrepute. There is still another Willes-related retrospective planning application outstanding for an earlier slurry lagoon - that one at Higher Alminstone Farm. What would be real news is to hear that he'd built one to plan with permission actually granted first!

    |   -2
  • accom  |  February 24 2012, 5:40PM

    Well fortunately I love nothing better than to jump into a big thick heap of surry. I shall be heading over there.

    |   1
  • JMMBNOCTON  |  February 24 2012, 3:58PM

    The defeated proposal for the so-called mega-dairy was in Lincolnshire not Norfolk. I know because I live about a mile or so from where it was going to be, in Nocton. Thank heavens Willes didn't get what he wanted here - goodness knows what he would have tried to get away with. I feel so sorry for others having to put up with situations like this.

    |   4

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