Scores of villagers have voiced fury over an innovative dairy farmer’s plan to create slurry lagoon four times the size of an Olympic swimming pool just a stone’s throw from their homes.
Farmer Andrew Leggott, who has a herd of about 400 Holstein cows in Great Smeaton, between Northallerton and Darlington, has applied to Richmondshire District Council to create a 10,000 cubic metre lake to store winter slurry so it can be used as fertiliser in the summer months near Dalton-on-Tees.
Mr Leggott, who has been hailed by the industry for adopting technologies and evolving his family’s business, was among the first farmers in the country to use sexed semen and moved into using robots in 2007.
It is understood he is undertaking a programme to increase milk yield per cow to achieve the same farm output from 50 fewer cows while increasing income from beef calves.
However, after he lodged the slurry lagoon proposal with the council, environmental health officers said a series of measures would be needed to minimise the odour impact of the lake on a field to the north of the A167.
The officers said while it remained unclear precisely how close to residents’ homes the slurry lake would be, an odour management plan was recommended to take factors such as weather conditions into account.
But Dalton Parish Council and numerous residents have questioned whether Mr Leggott should be allowed to transport the slurry 2.5 miles from his farm to reach the proposed lagoon.
In a lengthy objection to the proposal, the parish council said the frequent traffic movements involving a right hand turn into the site would create “additional hold-ups and hazards on what is already an extremely busy and at times dangerous stretch of road”.
It stated: “There is also a very real possibility of slurry discharge onto the road on the way to the site and mud being carried onto the road on exiting the site.
“Surely a better location for this facility would be in close proximity to the main farm enterprise in Hambleton, and not in open countryside in Richmondshire? Has an alternative location for this facility, closer to Mr Leggott’s farm been explored?”
Residents said they feared their homes would be overwhelmed by a rotten egg-type smell from what appeared to be plans for an open-air slurry lagoon.
The parish council stated the resulting foul smells would “inevitably have a detrimental effect on the residential amenity and also a depreciation in the value of the neighbouring properties”.
Other concerns include whether slurry is imported to the lagoon from elsewhere.
The parish council stated: “Councillors are aware that until recently another farmer several miles away was being paid to accept digestate from a chicken processing plant in Carlisle which was stored and then spread on farmland, giving rise to numerous complaints about the appalling smell.
“Clearly councillors are extremely concerned about something similar happening here…”