On 16th February 2011, after more than a year of campaigning by Compassion and other local and national organisations, Nocton Dairies withdrew its plans for a 3,700 cow zero-grazing farm at Nocton Heath in rural Lincolnshire.
The official reason given for the withdrawal was a very comprehensive and very serious objection to the plans by the Environment Agency. The news was followed swiftly by a statement from North Kesteven District Council that it had planned to reject the dairy anyway on six grounds:
- The failure of the applicant to fully assess alternative development sites which presented fewer environmental risks
- The unacceptable and significant risk to groundwater quality, including the nearby public water supply
- Significant uncertainties regarding the impacts and control of odour from the operation of the dairy, and associated land spreading, and its effects on residential amenity
- Insufficient detail regarding the frequency, volume and duration of operational noise, including from animals, and its effects on residential amenity
- Probable negative and adverse impacts to Bardney Limewoods Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a series of Local Wildlife Sites from increased ammonia and nitrogen deposition
- Insufficient justification for the construction of on-site agricultural workers houses.
Compassion's own campaign against Nocton Dairies encompassed animal welfare and environment and it was gratifying to see that points 2-5 were issues which we raised with the local council in our own objection to the plans.
Other serious objections to the mega-dairy had also been raised by Anglian Water, the local Sustainability Officer, the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, and by North Kesteven District Council's own environmental consultants, AEA.
We celebrated this news cautiously, in part because Nocton Dairies had refused to withdraw separate planning applications for a digestate pipeline and water reservoir – both necessary for the operation of the dairy. However, within weeks the District Council had refused planning permission for the pipeline and reservoir closing the door completely on Nocton Dairies’ plans for a farm at Nocton Heath.
Compassion maintained a high level of involvement both behind the scenes and in public. We worked with a highly skilled team of specialist legal experts and environmental advisors to forensically address issues within the planning applications. But the campaign's success was due to widespread support nationally and locally:
- Compassion's supporters were vocal in their objection, and thousands registered their opposition to the planning application.
- Thanks to the generosity of Compassion’s supporters our ‘Cows Belong in Fields’ campaign appeared on buses throughout Lincolnshire in support of local opposition to Nocton Dairies during the campaign.
- Celebrities spoke out too: Joanna Lumley, Caroline Lucas, Jo Brand, Zac Goldsmith and many others pledged their support for the campaign and gave it prominence in the national media.
- Compassion worked closely with national and local campaigners, in particular providing advice and support to the local Lincolnshire campaign group CAFFO.
An award winning campaign
On 9th June 2011, the campaign was recognised with the Observer Ethical Award for Campaigner of the Year. The campaign's success was only possible with widespread support nationally and from local campaign group, CAFFO.
A high profile campaign
Our campaign received a high level of support from a wide range of public figures and we also saw widespread national media coverage
- Guardian, 2 March 2010 – What does the Nocton application mean for the UK Dairy industry?
- Telegraph, 27 September 2010 – Do we need a ‘free range milk’ label?
- Independent 20 November 2010 – UK Family Farms are at risk
- Daily Mail 17 February 2011 – Plans are withdrawn
- Independent 17 February 2011 – The campaign is won
- Observer June 9 2011 – Compassion wins the Observer’s Ethical Campaigner Award
Serious implications for local people
The industrial farm at Nocton Heath would have been located less than a mile from the villages of Nocton and Dunston. It would have greatly increased local traffic and noise. The plan for distribution of farm waste threatened the local water supply and the potential for the spread of disease would have been greatly increased with so many animals kept in one place.
Serious implications for UK dairy farming
Huge intensive farms of this type are common in the US, but this dairy would have been the first of its kind in UK. If such a proposal were given the go-ahead, the impact on our countryside could be vast: cows in a field could become a thing of the past.
The UK dairy industry
The industry has seen a continual drop in the number of farmers, due to profitability, and a resulting drop in the number of cows in the UK dairy herd. At the same time, milk production levels have stayed more or less static due to the increased yields of dairy cows. Needless to say, the increased demand placed upon dairy cows places a real strain on the cow’s body and leads to a wide range of welfare concerns.
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About dairy cows
Modern dairy cows are bred specifically to produce large quantities of milk.