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Fridays Ltd withdraws Horsmonden farm application amid Animal Aid welfare allegations

By Ed McConnell

A hugely controversial application to build a 64,000-hen egg farm in a Kent village has been withdrawn amid welfare allegations.

Free-range egg producer Fridays Ltd first proposed the 32 hectare site at Pullens Farm in Horsmonden in April as part of moves to expand across the weald.

But in a dramatic u-turn the company has withdrawn the application.

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Penny Anderson, organiser, dressed partially as a chicken, with with other protesters outside a public exhibition for a large free range chicken farm proposal at Horsmonden Village Hall
Penny Anderson, organiser, dressed partially as a chicken, with with other protesters outside a public exhibition for a large free range chicken farm proposal at Horsmonden Village Hall

The withdrawal has been accepted by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council on its planning website.

Hundreds of people had objected to the plans, citing, among other things, the negative impact it would have on the countryside and animal welfare.

However, Fridays stood firm in its belief the farm would have little impact on the surrounding Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The withdrawal comes as Tonbridge charity Animal Aid says it has presented TWBC with damning video evidence allegedly showing 'shockingly low standards' at two of the companies' farms.

Animal Aid footage allegedly shows 'shockingly low conditions' at two Fridays' farms

In the footage birds are shown suffering from severe feather loss and living in filthy conditions.

The charity ran a campaign against the Lamberhurst Road proposal and said 2,788 people objected via its website.

A spokesman for Fridays said: "A recently produced video claims to show egg production at two of our sites. Whilst we cannot confirm whether the footage is from our sites, we do not recognise it as representative of our farms.

“All of our sites are inspected by independent veterinary services, DEFRA and, the British Egg Industry Council to ensure our hens are kept to high welfare standards.

“In response to the video we commissioned inspections by an independent veterinarian this week. His report found that these standards are being upheld.

“The footage is not of a free range facility and therefore does not have any connection with our proposed development at Horsmonden.

“There is no connection between the timing of the withdrawal of the Horsmonden application and the video. The application was withdrawn following discussions with Tunbridge Wells Borough Council regarding the further technical information they wish to see provided. We will be considering a new application at a later date.”

TWBC recently approved permission for three similar poultry houses at Combwell Farm, near Flimwell.

This application was for the construction of a 57,630 sq ft building, employing two full-time and four part-time members of staff and producing 403,000 eggs a week.

Fridays Ltd has applied to redevelop Combwell Farm in Goudhurst
Fridays Ltd has applied to redevelop Combwell Farm in Goudhurst

Fridays previously said the poultry house would be designed to high environmental standards and would be RSPCA accredited, and no bigger than those just approved.

Fridays is one of the five biggest egg producers in the UK. It already has 12 farms in Kent plus its egg-packing and distribution plant at Chequer Tree Farm in Cranbrook. It employs 270 people.

Further details can be viewed on the council’s website. Planning application number 15/503392.

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