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Environment Agency objects to Nocton Dairies

News Section Icon Published 18/01/2011

Official objection published

The Environment Agency has published a detailed and damning objection to Nocton Dairies' plans for a 'mega-dairy' in Lincolnshire. The objection filed on North Kesteven District Council's (NKDC) website, is seen as a devastating blow to plans for the 3,700 cow dairy, which will essentially keep its animals indoors all year round with little or no access to pasture.

Threats to the environment

The objection raises several key points about the threat to the environment which the plans pose.  The Agency objects to Nocton Dairies' plans as submitted, "because the proposed development would pose an unacceptable risk of pollution to groundwater."

The proposed site is located on Lincolnshire limestone -  classified as a Principal Aquifer - which is highly fractured and porous. This means pollutants could travel quickly to the groundwater below.  The Agency considers that, "in this location the production, handling and conveyance of large volumes of slurry and digestate (slurry following treatment by anaerobic digestion) immediately on top of an unprotected aquifer, presents a significant risk to the water environment."

The Agency goes on to say that the dairy industry was responsible for a quarter of all reported farming related pollution incidents in England in 2009 and takes it as a given that, "...there will be pollution incidents associated with the day-to-day operation of the proposed dairy. We consider these risks are unacceptable at this location. We also consider that (Nocton's) Environmental Statement (ES) lacks adequate information to demonstrate that the risks posed can be satisfactorily managed."

Original application withdrawn

After Nocton Dairies withdrew its original planning application in April 2010, NKDC produced a scoping opinion which made copious recommendations about what would need to be proven before the dairy could be considered environmentally sound. Although the proprietors have had nearly nine months to address these concerns, the Agency notes that not all of these concerns have been fully addressed. The objection also lists several errors in calculation, instances of contradictory information and a lack of clarity and quantitative detail in Nocton Dairies' Environmental Statement.

Concerns regarding the anaerobic digester

The objection identifies a number of concerns. It notes, for instance, that the treated waste or digestate is very high in nitrogen, in an area where levels of nitrate in the groundwater are already high, and also notes that little detail is provided to show that the process will remove all pathogens from the slurry. It states that, "The AD process and burning of biogas* are waste activities and the treatment of more than 75,000 tonnes per annum of slurry will require a bespoke environmental permit."

* Biogas typically refers to a gas produced by the biological breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen.

Compassion's Nocton Campaign Manager, Pat Thomas, said:

"The Environment Agency's position comes as no surprise. Our own detailed objection ( 3184.91KB) noted many of the same problems. In our opinion, the environmental statement submitted by Nocton Dairies was more like a promotional document than a thorough reckoning of the serious environmental issues connected with the proposed 'mega-dairy'.

The many promised ecological bolt-ons are unlikely to adequately protect the environment; some like the anaerobic digester bring their own potential problems, which are glossed over in the proposal.

As the Agency notes, many of the environmental risks linked to Nocton Dairies simply cannot be addressed through mitigation measures, since pollution incidents are often caused by human error and unforeseen circumstances. We urge North Kesteven District Council to take this very seriously and reject these disastrous plans."

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