A CONTROVERSIAL egg farm that would have houses 112,000 birds near Nancegollan has been rejected.

Greville Richards of Richland Foods Ltd had wanted to build four large hen houses for free range egg production at Pengwedna, in the Breage parish.

The firm already supplies vegetables to major supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, M&S and Morrisons, as well as for wholesale and export, and hoped to diversify.

Cornwall Council received 158 letters of objection to the application and 14 letters of support.

Among the objectors was the Nancegollan Action Group set up to protest against the plans. Its online petition "Stop the free range egg farce" has received more than 20,000 signatures.

Members claimed they faced a "threat to our basic human right to have uncontaminated water and clean air to breathe," with homes in the immediate vicinity becoming "inhabitable and worthless" and bore-holes suffering "contamination."

Other people had raised concerns about the smell, increase in flies and increase in traffic.

Although acknowledging that there had been a "significant number of objections to the proposal," including from Breage Parish Council, planning officer Ellis Crompton-Brown had recommended the application be approved, stating that the issues raised could be resolved by adding conditions to the planning permission.

There had also been some element from support, with Colin Gravatt, who described himself as "an advisor of the production of free range eggs," writing that the "concerns and worries of the neighbours about pollution and general environmental nuisance are misinformed, exaggerated and unfounded."

However, the strategic planing committee at Cornwall Council was unanimous in its refusal of the plans on the grounds of "severe landscape impact due to scale" and "absence of detailed information on harms to the water supply."

Councillor Andrew Long, who proposed the refusal, said: "This is not farming, this is a factory."

Mr Richards had wanted to build four hen houses, three of them containing 32,000 birds each, in tiers, and a fourth holding a further 16,000 birds.

A report given to the planning committee stated that the proposed buildings would be for free range egg production, with hens brought in at around 16 weeks old and kept there for just over a year (56 weeks), before the buildings would be emptied, disinfected and a new cycle of birds brought in. During that time each chicken was expected to produce an average of 300 eggs, per laying cycle.

A 3.6 metre strip of concrete covered with wood or bark chips running the length of each building would provide a scratching area.

In his officer report, Mr Crompton-Brown report said the applicant had confirmed the farm would comply with Tesco, RSPCA, Lion code, Red tractor and DEFRA codes of practice. The development would provide jobs for local people.

"The applicant states that with a ban on caged hens looming within the industry, there is an increasing demand for free range eggs, this proposal would help to address," added the officer.