Strabane pig business runs into planning road block

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A North Tyrone pig business has been stymied for over two years by the planning authorities, including Strabane Council, in its attempts to improve the efficiency of the farm.

“In the present climate one would think that any investment would be welcomed, particularly as it is the desired objective of the Food Strategy Initiative,” said SM Pigs director Hugh McReynolds.

“But all of these good intentions are not helping farmers committed to improving the efficiency of their businesses. We submitted a planning application to build a new pig house and replace nine existing farm buildings back in January 2013, that’s 26 months ago. Despite employing expert advice and carrying out detailed noise, odour and flood surveys, the plan has still not been approved by the Planning Service.

“Since the time of application our experts have continually and adequately addressed questions raised in relation to noise and odour in a manner that proves beyond doubt that there is no worsening of the present situation by the implementation of the proposal, yet this appears to be unacceptable to the authorities. In fact, anyone would appreciate that replacing an old building with modern equivalent would even improve the general environment for everyone.”

SM Pigs is an established business and only wishes to modernise the facility. The operation has already invested some £900,000 on farm improvements to meet increased customer and animal welfare requirements. Its proposed investment of some £700,000, now with the planners, does not increase animal numbers and only improves efficiency which is much needed in a very tight market position.

“We strongly believe that no one has grasped the benefits that developments like this can bring to the local agricultural economy,” Reynolds said.

“We have written to the Minister for the Environment, the local MP, planning director, chief executive of Strabane Council, and even submitted notes to the council meeting in November 2014. We have also contacted local councillors.

“We firmly believe that common sense must prevail. The applicant has a duty of care and it is the company who will ultimately suffer if any development isn’t carried out in accordance with relevant legislation. An existing business needs to invest and modernise to improve efficiency. Waiting for planning for over two years is detrimental to any business and reflects badly on the Strabane area, which badly needs inward investment.”

The SM Pigs’ director continued: “We have continually furnished expertly prepared information in response to questions raised and have done so in a timely manner including a referral meeting held at Strabane District Council, with all relevant parties, on 10th December 2014.

“The lengthy period of this planning application and due to the excessive delays experienced, and presently being experienced, the established business has suffered and is suffering considerable financial stress and financial loss.

“Just how many experts do we need to employ and how many letters do we have to send to get off this merry go round of the planning process in this area?

“I dread to think how long the new super council will take to “find its feet” when situations like this are left unresolved.

“Two years of meetings and excuses have not allowed this business to improve and grow and that’s simply bad for agriculture and the local economy which badly needs this type of investment.”