PLANS for a new free-range egg production building owned by the leader of Northumberland County Council. Coun. Peter Jackson, have been approved.

The proposal for the free-range egg production unit on land at Westcotes Farm, near Ponteland, was approved by councillors from the authority’s strategic planning committee at County Hall in Morpeth on Tuesday.

The building will house 32,000 birds and an egg packing unit, while the field around the building would be used for the free-range birds to roam.

According to the application, the project is a brand new business venture, which it is hoped would create one full-time job.

It was confirmed at the meeting that the only reason the application had to be decided by the committee was because it was submitted by a county councillor.

Agent, Jo Evans, explained that the scheme was “important for the applicant because it will allow them to future-proof their business,” and that the building had been carefully designed specifically for for its use.

The proposal received only one objection, from Ponteland Civic Society, which raised concerns about the proposal based on the location of the building and the considerable quantities of manure produced.

The objection highlighted that “a unit this size would produce considerable quantities of chicken manure” and there are no details as to how this would be managed.

The letter stated that around 50,000 tonnes would be produced during every 60-week cycle when the facility was full to capacity with 32,000 birds.

However, planning officers clarified that there was a condition attached to the proposal which required manure handling details to be provided before the site was brought into use.

Ponteland Town Council had originally raised concerns in relation to ecology and archaeology, but councillors had been satisfied by reports submitted on the subjects as part of the application.

The meeting heard that the county council ecologist and archaeologist had both raised no objections.

At the meeting, committee member Coun. Jeff Reid, asked whether the large amount of chickens would prompt an increase in traffic on the nearby A696.

However, councillors were told that officers from the authority’s highways department had raised no objections to the proposal.

Chairman of the strategic planning committee, Coun. Colin Horncastle, joked that the new venture could lead to Coun. Jackson providing free-range eggs for his fellow county councillors.