Company defends major pig farm plan

By Conor Macauley
BBC NI Agriculture & Environment Correspondent

Image caption,
The pig farm is planned for a site near Limavady

A company backing plans for a large pig farm in Co Londonderry has defended the development near Limavady.

If approved by planners, the farm on Glenhead Road would house five pig units to accommodate 13,000 animals.

The farm is being backed by the PCM Group which negotiates with processors on behalf of 32 pig farmers.

Opponents have raised concerns about emissions, but supporters say the farm's design features will mitigate the environmental impact.

PCM Group spokesman Hugh McReynolds said it would be a "high welfare" site.

Image caption,
Hugh McReynolds said UK supermarkets were committing to buying UK pork

He said UK supermarkets were increasingly committing to buying British pork and there was a market for the meat.

The site has the capacity to produce around 58,000 pigs a year.

Image caption,
Residents have organised meetings to discuss their concerns in Ballykelly and Greysteel

Causeway Coast and Glens Council will decide whether it gets the go-ahead.

So far it has been sent 3,000 letters of objection, five petitions with a total of almost 14,000 signatures and two letters of support.

Image caption,
Local processers have contracts with major supermarkets to supply pork

The farmer, Thomas Simpson, has been asked to provide planners with levels of odour, noise and ammonia.

Planning documents show proposals for air scrubbers on several of the units to reduce emissions.

He has declined to comment on the plans.

It is estimated that the farm will produce 22,000 tonnes of slurry and nitrogen-rich water a year.

That will be spread on 1,300 acres belonging to eight different landowners.

Image caption,
The pigs will be reared to a certain weight then moved off farm for fattening

Hugh McReynolds said the pigs would be raised to a certain stage before being moved to other farms.

He said this would improve herd health and cut antibiotic and vaccine use in the animals - an important consumer concern.

An Executive strategy to expand Northern Ireland's agri-food industry includes plans to increase sow numbers here.

The target is an increase of 40% to 53,000 sows by 2020.