HC Deb 10 March 1964 vol 691 cc252-4
Mr. James Boyden (Bishop Auckland)

I beg to move, That leave be given to introduce a Bill to remedy nuisances arising from the use of factory methods in agriculture. The scope of my proposed Bill is rather more limited than was that introduced by the late Mr. John Dugdale on 23rd November, 1960, and which was supported by hon. Members on both sides of the House. It would also relate to a narrower front than the series of articles in the Observer dealing with the various aspects of this problem. The provisions of the Bill would be entirely directed to the planning and the amenity side of the problem. These methods employed in factory premises are very often not agricultural at all. They are biological and their use is quite inappropriate if the premises are sited near a town or a small village.

There is an economic incentive to place these factories on the edge of a village or a small town because the cost of bringing electricity and water, and making access roads, is cheaper. Therefore, there is an economic incentive to to put these factories in places which are most inappropriate. The type of factories which are causing a nuisance are broiler houses, premises connected with the intensive breeding of pigs, the intensive breeding of rabbits and the sort of store where beef cattle and calves are penned up and highly concentrated. Mink and other fur-bearing animals are treated in the same way and the whole process is continually growing. The result is that several sorts of nuisances are created with which it is impossible to deal under the provisions of the existing law.

At many of these premises the noise is continuous. The ventilating fans used in broiler houses have been described as making a noise which sounds like the droning of an outsize vacuum cleaner and it goes on all day and all night. I submit that this is a very serious matter for anyone who owns a house or a bungalow near premises from which this continuous noise is emitted.

When these premises are cleared out the smell is extremely unpleasant. Some are cleared out about once a year. The only means of disposal is by spreading the droppings over the adjoining fields and distance, therefore, becomes extremely important. Even if the droppings are removed more frequently, an extremely unpleasant smell is experienced by the occupants of houses in the neighbourhood while the operation is in progress.

Perhaps the worst feature is the infestation by flies and mice. When one poultry house, measuring 84 feet by 20 feet, was cleared out, 10,000 mice were killed during the operation. The owners of houses which are near to premises containing poultry have to keep windows shut in the summer and spray continuously against flies from the beginning of spring until the end of autumn. I am told that there is no scientific way to keep down the number of flies. Unfortunately, conditions which are good for the poultry are also good for the flies.

No particular connection has been established between the smells, the flies and health, but, obviously, there must be a serious deleterious effect from the presence of flies in these numbers. Anyone who has the misfortune to live in a house near one of these premises must suffer considerably from the various troubles which arise.

The purpose of my Bill is to amend Section 221 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1962, by giving the Minister of Housing and Local Government power to issue an order excepting these premises from the term "agricultural". At the same time, the provisions would be flexible so that new factory processes could be added to the definition from time to time. In this way new developments would be controlled. An applicant who wished to set up an agricultural factory of this description would have to apply for planning permission in the same way as it is necessary to apply for planning permission in respect of a house. He would have a right of appeal under the planning appeals machinery. It would not affect existing agricultural practices, at least not at once. It would not affect existing broiler houses and other premises. Nor would it affect the existing uses of land in this way, but only the use of other land.

The present position is quite ridiculous. Planning authorities control the elevation and position of a house or a bungalow in the narrowest detail. But permission must be obtained in respect of a large agricultural building only if it occupies an area of over 5,000 sq. ft. If it is 4,999 sq. ft. no permission is necessary. Factory buildings of this sort—broiler houses or large pigsties of just under 5,000 sq. ft.—are erected and placed at 100-yard intervals. Under the present law it is possible, two years later, for another of these buildings to be placed near to the existing buildings; so it is possible to erect a whole clutch of these poultry houses, within the provisions of the existing law, right on the doorstep of houses in a pleasant village or suburb.

I know that this is possible, because there are three of these kinds of buildings in a small town in my constituency and in two villages. It is necessary to see, in order to appreciate, the harmful effects caused by the presence of such premises. The local authorities take the greatest trouble to see that private houses are built properly and conform to standards of amenity and planning. But broiler houses and pigsties three times the size of a house, from which are emitted noises and smells and which harbour flies, may be erected to the detriment of the amenities in the area where they are built.

I therefore ask leave to introduce the Bill to remedy such nuisances.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Boyden, Mrs. Slater, Mr. Ainsley, Mr. C. Johnson, Mr. Pentland, Mr. Randall, and Mr. Woof.