Newtownabbey Pig Farm

Planning Proposal for Hall's Pig Farm

FAQs: Please click on each section for summary information.

For full details, the proposal can be viewed within the Environmental Statement (Addendum) attached within the website.

Why are we doing it?

Our existing farm is on the Old Carrick Road in Monkstown. The buildings are old and we do not have the space to renovate the existing site and remain in business. We have been farming on this site for around 62 years and while the area wasn't built up when we first started farming here, the area is now extremely residential.

Our aim is to develop a new site on the Reahill Road, off the Carntall Road, in Newtownabbey. This area is a more agricultural setting for our proposed farm than our existing site, with little housing in close proximity. Our new proposed farm would be a state-of-the-art facility, providing improvements both for the animals and for our environment. If planning permission is granted, the farm would be built to house around 15,120 animals, approximately 50% more than at the existing farm.

If the new farm is approved, only sows will remain on the existing site along with their young offspring. Approval for the new farm will allow us to renovate the existing site. The reduced pig numbers and renovations will significantly reduce odour and allow us to improve the welfare of our pigs.

Health and Welfare

We believe in continually improving the welfare of our animals. As we don't have the climate or soil type for outdoor rearing, we have sought advice from the RSPCA and PIW (Partners In Welfare) to ensure that we can meet high quality indoor standards. This will ensure that the pigs are well kept all year round. With the inconsistent climate that is ever occurring, indoor systems may be the future for the highest quality welfare and environment both for pigs and the surrounding landscape. This farm will sit alongside the best quality facilities in the world.

Room per pig: We plan to give considerably more room per pig than the current guidelines recommend. For example weaner pigs will have over 25.7% more space and our finisher pigs will have over 17% more space per pig than DARD require. We are even giving greater space than RSPCA Freedom Foods. The tables below show the DARD legislation of m2/pig required for groups of animals, the RSPCA standards and our proposed space allowance. Pen sizes are multiplied accordingly.

DARD Standards.

Live weight (kg) m2
Up to 10 0.15
Over 10 up to 20 0.20
Over 20 up to 30 0.30
Over 30 up to 50 0.40
Over 50 up to 85 0.55
Over 85 up to 110 0.65
More than 110 1.00

RSPCA Freedom Foods standards are below.

Live weight (kg) m2
Up to 10 0.15
Up to 20 0.225
Up to 30 0.3
Up to 40 0.4
Up to 50 0.47
Up to 60 0.55
Up to 70 0.61
Up to 80 0.675
Up to 90 0.715
Up to 100 0.75
Up to 110 0.8

Our Proposed Standards.

Live weight (kg) m2
Up to 35-40 0.44
Up to 110 0.819

Weaners: Weaners enter the farm between 8 & 9kg and stay for 7 weeks before being moved to the finisher house at between 35 & 40kg. The weaner pen is 4.5m wide and 7.35m long for up to 72 pigs.

Finishers: Extra space is given to the finisher pigs by allowing them 2 pens, 4.5m wide and 7.5m long, allowing for 2 pens with 36 pigs in each. Faster growing pigs are removed once they hit their optimum weight, which leaves greater space for the remaining animals as they continue to grow.

Ventilation system: The automatically controlled ventilation system means fresh air will constantly circulate within the pig houses, which are divided into smaller rooms. The exiting air is pushed through an exhaust air cleaning system, which removes Odour, Ammonia and dust. This system removes cross contamination of unclean air and fresh air that will enter the housing.

Heating system: The pig houses will be heated using the heat sourced from the anaerobic digester. Alongside the ventilation system which allows for better air circulation and an improved environment for the animals.

Misting system: There will be a misting system to help to cool the pigs in hot weather.

Scraper system: The pig waste (slurry) will be collected below the pig houses. A scraper system below the pig flooring will remove the waste regularly where it will be pumped directly into the anaerobic digester.

Health: We run our farms with a high health status. This means that we do not need or believe in the overuse of drugs or antibiotics while rearing our pigs. It is illegal within the EU to use antibiotics in order to promote growth, which constitutes a large amount of antibiotic use in other countries. We also do not believe in the prophylactic (preventative) use of antibiotics. We wean our pigs later to avoid reliance on antibiotics and follow strict management protocols to ensure disease does not enter the life cycle of our animals. All of our pigs are bred by ourselves, and we do not bring animals from other farms. This means along with a very good site layout, we have excellent bio-security which will ensure that we can hold on to our high health credentials. Our proposed split site design is also now advised for health purposes.

For further information please refer to the Health and Welfare chapter 11 of the Environmental Statement (Addendum).

Odour

We will mainly reduce odour via the use of an exhaust air cleaning system. This system is the only system relied upon within the odour model, which also ensures that we are below the 3ou (odour units) threshold.

Exhaust air cleaning: This is achieved by pulling all the air from within the pig housing to one end of the building via a Central Air Duct. This pulls all the air from individual pig rooms via automatic controlled louvres. The air within the air duct is then pushed through a series of filters which removes odour, dust and ammonia.

Odour Modelling: What is it?

An odour model has been carried out to assess the level of odour and ammonia that the new farm will emit. This looks at weather data from the previous five years in order to assess odour and ammonia dispersal in the air using the information from the worst year. This weather data is then assessed in conjunction with anticipated livestock numbers at the highest stocking rate. Within the model the only mitigation technology relied upon is the extract air cleaner. The odour model results for the new site show the highest level of odour emission over a five-year period resting at below 3ou (odour units) for the closest receptor (dwelling). This is within the NIEA (Northern Ireland Environment Agency) guidance levels. These levels have been set in order not to pose a nuisance for the surrounding dwellings.

To put these guidelines into context, an odour threshold of 1ou/m3 is the level at which an odour is detectable by 50% of screened panelists. The recognition threshold is about 5 times this concentration i.e. 5ou/m3. Furthermore, odour concentration of between 5 and 10 ou/m3 above background will give rise to a faint odour and concentrations greater than 10ou/m3 constitutes a distinct odour and are likely to give rise to nuisance complaints.

There are extra factors which will reduce odour, ammonia and dust that are not relied upon within the model. This further ensures that the figures shown are indeed vastly improved.

Pig numbers: The model has used the highest possible stocking density of 17,220 pigs. As we are proposing 15,120 pigs. This equates to a total reduction of 12.2%.

Low Protein diets: Pigs can be fed different diets to better suit their need. NIEA accept a 20% reduction of odour and ammonia through the use of low protein diets.

Scraping system: This system involves the regular removal of waste from the pig houses via the use of a scraper that will run below the pig flooring. This system will remove slurry (pig waste) from the houses regularly and will pump it directly into the anaerobic digester. This means there will be no accumulation of waste in the houses to create a build up of odour. NIEA have allowed a 25% reduction of odour and ammonia through the use of this method.

An anaerobic digester: The digester takes smell out of slurry/manure by removing the gases. These gases are then turned into renewable energy to provide heat and electricity for the farm, making us more environmentally friendly. This process also significantly reduces odour. There is an 80% odour reduction applied to the digestate that is then spread on the fields. The digestate has greater fertiliser properties, as weed seeds are broken down along with the other materials in the slurry. This means that crops have better utilisation and the digestate enters the soil faster. The digester is mainly run with the use of slurry and manure, but it requires a small percentage of products like grass silage or other crops to enable it to run efficiently.

The covered digestate lagoons: The lagoons will hold the treated digestate from the anaerobic digester. They will be sealed with a cover. This will help prevent any remaining smell spreading and stop rainwater causing it to overflow. As a further measure to prevent the risk of overflowing, the lagoons will never be filled to capacity.

Additional heat: The heat for the houses is supplied by the Anaerobic Digester. This enables the pig houses to be at their optimum climate and increase the minimum ventilation rate. This is especially important for our smaller pigs, giving them the best start in life.

Existing site: The background levels for ammonia were set in 2011 and contain within them our current pig farm. As there will be a vast reduction in emissions from the current site, the background levels relating to the existing farm will be reduced by a figure above 80%.

For further information please refer to the Odour and Ammonia chapter 4 of the Environmental Statement (Addendum).

Noise

While construction work is carried out we will do all we can to minimise disturbance to our neighbours. After construction, all the machinery used for farm activity will be housed inside buildings in order to minimise noise. Noise from our existing farm does not pose a problem beyond our boundaries and this will be the same on the new site. A noise model has been carried out on site and all levels are well within set regulations both for construction and then once building is completed and full operations have commenced.

For further information please refer to the Noise chapter 4 of the Environmental Statement (Addendum).

Traffic

Once built, the farm will be serviced by an average of 7 lorries a day to bring feed, silage, transport animals and remove waste. These will move at the speed of the traffic on the road and, as on our existing farm, will avoid the peak rush hour times apart from in exceptional circumstances. Any other traffic will be normal movements associated with farming activity, such as a small number of vehicles for workers who car share. They will usually arrive between 7am-8am and leave between 5pm-6pm. There will also be infrequent visits by vets, inspectors etc. The additional movements on the Carntall road equates to 3.5%, while the Doagh road equates to an additional 1%. The effect will not be substantial and movements within peak hour times will be infrequent.

There is a traffic light system at the bottom of the Carntall Road, and sight lines were recently reviewed and updated by the Road Service on the Reahill Road as it joins with the Carntall Road. A section of the Reahill Road will also be widened and sight lines from the new entrance of the proposed farm have been designed in order to ensure good road visibility for emerging traffic.

For further information please refer to the Traffic chapter 4 of the Environmental Statement (Addendum).

Environment

Light: There are many large windows in the buildings to give good natural light throughout. As pigs need to rest and sleep like we do, lights inside the buildings will be turned off for a minimum of eight hours per day. The site is very secure so there is no need for extensive security lighting. Security lighting that is in place can be motion sensitive and angled correctly to ensure that light pollution isn't an issue.

Renewable Energy: An anaerobic digester will take the odour emitting gases from the slurry (pig waste) thereby significantly reducing odour, and convert them into energy. This energy base will be used to power the farm. The digester also produces heat. This heat will be used in the pig houses in order to create a better environment for the animals.

Dust: A lot of dust found on farms is created by the dry meal used to feed animals. Working with nutrition specialists to ensure the best for our animals, feed will be in a semi-liquid form, therefore helping to significantly reduce dust. The feed shall be delivered into sealed bins from which it is fed directly to the feeding system before being pumped into the feeding troughs. There will also be a misting system in the pig houses to reduce any further dust build up within the pig houses. The exhaust air cleaning system will remove further dust particles.

Flies: The level of flies will be directly improved with our proposed odour reduction systems. The scraper system ensures there is no significant build-up of slurry within the buildings to attract flies and anaerobic digestion breaks down all particles within the slurry. The digestate lagoons are covered therefore flies cannot collect around the treated digestate.

Water accessibility and usage: Making the best use of our best resource available in Northern Ireland is important. With the high level of rainfall, this can be collected and treated before being captured within the attenuation pond, which has a capacity of 17,000,000 litres. When required, the water will be pumped through filters and utilised by the farm. There are 6 liquid storage tanks, each with a capacity of 35,000 litres, to hold the filtered water and whey.

The annual water availability duet to rainfall and surface runoff within the site, and water percentage within the imported whey add up to an average of 112,296,744 litres. The water requirement for the farm is expected to be less than a third of what is available, in other words there is plenty of water for everyone.

Employment

We are open about the fact that we are investing heavily in the proposed new farm with state-of-the-art systems that will benefit our pigs and the local environment. There will be approximately 8 full/part time jobs created on this part of the farm. We will also need additional employees to manage the sow herd at the existing farm. Additional employment opportunities relating to this proposal include many businesses that provide services and goods for us on an ongoing basis. Contractors will be required during the construction phase and, when operational, contractors may potentially be hired throughout the year to undertake other vital jobs on and around the farm. In addition, once the pigs are sold on into the market place, this will provide employment opportunities in many different outlets. This is the reason why the agri-food sector is Northern Ireland's biggest employer and contributor to its economy.

Research will be carried out by students and by ourselves through extensive trial work to improve the feeding, diet and management providing further employment and education support. Such research will help not only us, but also the wider pig industry.

For further information please see the Education section and refer to the Economic chapter 12 of the Environmental Statement (Addendum).

Visuals

The site is 24.5 acres in total. This includes the pig buildings, a silo clamp, a silo building with AD plant, 2 anaerobic digester tanks, an office, 2 covered slurry lagoons each with the capacity of 3,375m3 (743,000 gallons), and a water attenuation pond with a capacity of 17,000m3 (3,744,000 gallons) to be a feature and natural habitat for wildlife.

The colour of the buildings have been specifically chosen to blend into the countryside. The buildings follow the contours of the land. The boundaries of the site will be landscaped in order to hide the buildings from view as much as possible and to remain in keeping with the surrounding environment. There is only one viewpoint that can capture the development with any significance: this viewpoint is visible if you travel along the Reahill Road until you are above the development, and close to the skyline above Belfast Lough. As the proposed development has been designed to integrate into the landscape and it is at a much lower level than the height of the hill, the site at no point breaks the skyline.

This visual is available in the visuals section of the website. For further information please refer to the Visual chapter 10 of the Environmental Statement (Addendum).

Scale of the project

The size of the project has been determined by the sheer economic factors relating to the infrastructure and technology that must be put in place to ensure that the government legislation is met and to develop a high welfare farm. The buildings will also be built using high fire rated products and fire prevention measures are integrated into the farm’s design. It is also vital that the project can be economically viable as pig farmers don't receive European subsidies like some other sectors of agriculture.

The fear of large farms putting smaller farms out of business is unfounded. It is of great benefit for all farmers to get the chance to see the latest advances, as this may help them shape their future businesses and improve the rest of the industry. It is important to highlight the need to increase the pig population by 40% by 2020 according to the Northern Ireland Executive’s ‘Going for Growth’ strategy and the UN has stated that the world must produce 70% more food by 2050; therefore this new build is supplying a need rather than producing extra competition.

Product Sales

We believe it is not efficient to import food when we could be producing it ourselves. The United Kingdom is currently only 55% self sufficient in home-grown pork products, and it is this market we primarily seek to invest in. It is important to note however that there are certain cuts of product that are not consumed in the UK; these are very sought after in other world markets like China. These cuts equate to a small percentage of the total animal which would otherwise be wasted.

Education

We are proposing a flagship development for the industry with many advancements in welfare, technology, management, research, renewable energy & environmental improvements. We have incorporated a viewing gallery within the weaner house and finisher house 3 to enable visitors to view the houses while ensuring good bio-security is upheld. A large TV in each viewing area will be connected to a media program with explanation videos and details. The exhaust air cleaning system can be viewed at the other side of the viewing gallery, this will enable the technology to be explained. This will give us the ability to encourage and educate other producers, individuals who may want to join the industry and organised parties of customers. This system will also show our commitment and transparency in relation to the way we work whilst demonstrating best practice in order to pass on any learning from this state-of-the-art facility.

As the most sophisticated techniques are integrated within the proposal, and as we have designed the unit with the ability to measure all performance data, we perform research to quantify the positive impacts of this new unit. Take an example of feed conversion: if feed conversion can be improved, there will be a reduction in the amount of grain required to produce the same pig. If the improvements can be passed on to the wider industry the need for increased food production with reduced environmental impact can be met whilst continuing to be affordable for consumers.

We are committed to supporting agricultural education in Northern Ireland and worldwide. We plan to provide opportunities and support for students and/or academic institutions wishing to partake in relevant research.

Drainage and Flooding

A schedule 6 application has been submitted to the Northern Ireland Rivers Agency to obtain permission to discharge surface water from this proposed development into the Ballyearl Stream, immediately south of the proposed site. The schedule 6 application proposes to restrict surface water discharge from the developed site to a greenfield runoff rate of 10l/s/ha. Based on the present ground conditions at the site and the conservative proposed runoff rate of 10l/s/ha, it is likely that surface water discharge from the proposed development will enter the Ballyearl Stream at a lower rate than occurs at present. The risk of flooding will not be increased downstream of the site.

In order to restrict surface water discharge from the site to a greenfield runoff rate of 10l/s/ha, a hydrobrake shall be fitted to the last proposed manhole upstream of the proposed new outlet structure into the stream. This hydrobrake will throttle the proposed discharge from the site to the proposed greenfield runoff rate. Storm attenuation must therefore be provided upstream of the hydrobrake to store the excess surface water during an extreme event. This attenuation system, which may take the form of a pond in line with UK Sustainable Urban Drainage System (SUDS) recommendation (see below), will be designed to store surface water from a 30 year return period event (an event that will statistically only happen once every 30 years) with a 20% allowance for climate change. Once the storm event has abated, stored surface water within the attenuation pond will continue to discharge into the Ballyearl Stream at greenfield runoff rates, returning the pond to its original water level.

A large attenuation pond, created in order to collect water used on site and eradicate flooding risk, will be designed as a feature and environmental habitat. The minimum size of the pond has been determined in line with the 100-year flood statistics. This means that the size of the pond has been developed to ensure that it will collect the water dispersed from the site, along with rainwater, and not overflow. The storage requirement needed to mitigate against flooding is 1,154m3 (1,154,000 litres). However the capacity within the attenuation pond is 17,000m3 (17,000,000 litres) therefore eradicating the risk of flooding. Much of the water that is collected will be utilised on site for washing and various other tasks in order to encourage the best use of our natural resources.

For further information please refer the soils and water chapter 6 and drainage chapter 7 of the Environmental Statement (Addendum).

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