Company pulls out of chicken farm plans

Madeira Tunbridge Wells 2

Egg producer Fridays has withdrawn its controversial plans to build a farm near Horsmonden.

Footage published by Tonbridge-based charity Animal Aid, which it says shows chickens at Fridays’ facilities, was handed to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council on November 11. Although the company said it ‘could not confirm’ the validity of the video, Fridays withdrew its plans two days later.

The withdrawal of the plans, for a 32-hectare free-range egg production plant at Pullens Farm on the edge of Horsmonden, was welcomed by pressure group Save the Weald.

Speaking on behalf of the body, which was set up by residents in and around Horsmonden to oppose the development, member Val Thacker said: “We are pleased with the outcome and hope this is due to Fridays recognising the issues we have raised regarding health and being in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

“Although we are aware of the support from Animal Aid, we have not directed them in any way.”
Fridays ‘could not confirm’ the video was taken in one of its farms, adding that it was ‘unrepresentative’ of its facilities. A spokesman also denied it was the reason behind the application’s being withdrawn.

But it acknowledged the footage had led bosses to commission an inspection of the farms.

A spokesman for Fridays said: “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 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.”

He added there was ‘no connection’ between the timing of the video’s release and the planning withdrawal, which was a decision made after discussions with the council regarding ‘technical information’.

The company also confirmed it would be considering another application ‘at a later date.’

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