Plans for UK's largest dairy farm scrapped over water pollution fears

Cows feeding

Original plans would have seen 8,100 cows kept on the farm

Controversial mega-dairy farm in village of Nocton generated heavy opposition from local residents, animal welfare and environmental groups who feared it could lead to wave of US-style mega-dairies. Tom Levitt reports

Plans for a 4,000-cow mega-dairy farm in Lincolnshire in the UK have been withdrawn after fears it would pollute water supplies in the local area.

The Environment Agency objected to the farm saying it posed an 'unacceptable risk to groundwater supplies' and was not satisfied tens of thousands of tonnes of slurry expected to be produced by the cows every year would be safely disposed of. Soil and water experts had told the Ecologist the unprecedented number of animals would create pressure to spread waste slurry and risked leaching and run-off problems.

The two farmers behind the proposal had already cut cow numbers in half in an attempt to get it approved by local council officials, who had been due to make a decision next month. However, the farmers have now admitted defeat saying it had been 'impossible to provide the reassurances required by the Environment Agency that livestock farming is an appropriate use of the land at this site'.

There had been fears the farm, which would have been the largest ever built in the UK, would led to an influx of US-style mega dairy farms. The farming community itself remain divided on the issue, with many fearing a public backlash against dairy and its impact on smaller family-run dairy farms.

In a statement, the farmers behind the Nocton proposal, David Barnes and Peter Willes, said they still hoped to see large-scale, US-style, dairy farming in the UK and challenged others to 'stand up to' opponents of the system. Another farmer, David Alvis, has recently been reported to be looking to set up a 2,000-3,000 cow unit in Cambridgeshire.

The Soil Association is also battling plans for an intensive indoor pig unit of 2,500 mother pigs (sows) and around 20,000 piglets, being proposed in Derbyshire. It was part of an alliance of groups, including Friends of the Earth and Compassion in World Farming, who supported the World Society for the Protection of Animals 'Not in my cuppa' campaign, opposing the farm.

'Although Nocton Dairies have always tried to spin their plans for the UK's first mega-dairy as 'ambitious' and 'visionary', the submitted plans showed that they had not addressed some of the most important, and indeed fundamental, environmental and animal welfare flaws in the mega-dairy system,' said Compassion in World Farming (CIWF).

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