A proposal to build a tunnel for chickens to cross a busy road has sparked controversy in a rural community in Scotland. The plan, which aims to give more space to a free range egg farm, has been met with skepticism and opposition by some locals.
Why does the farm need a chicken underpass?
The farm, East Lothian Eggs Limited, is located near Gifford, in East Lothian. It produces free range eggs from a flock of 64,000 chickens, which are housed in two sheds. The farm was granted permission last year to double its flock size by adding a new shed.
However, to meet the free range standards, the farm also needs to provide enough land for the chickens to roam outside the sheds. The farm has a field on the other side of a 60mph road, which it wants to use as an additional ranging area. To allow the chickens to access the field safely, the farm has applied to build an underpass under the road.
How would the chicken underpass work?
The underpass would be 18 metres long and have openings that are 2.5 metres wide and 1.5 metres high. It would be made of concrete and have a mesh cover to prevent predators from entering. The underpass would be connected to the sheds and the field by fenced corridors.
The farm claims that the chickens would use the underpass voluntarily, as they are naturally curious and like to explore new areas. The farm also says that the underpass would improve the welfare and productivity of the chickens, as they would have more space and stimulation.
What are the objections to the chicken underpass?
The plan has faced resistance from the local community council, which represents the residents of the nearby villages. The community council has raised several concerns, such as:
- The underpass is not justified by the egg production operations, as the farm already has enough land for the chickens on the same side of the road.
- The underpass would cause disruption and inconvenience to the traffic and the road users, as the road would have to be closed for six days during the construction.
- The underpass would create a visual impact on the rural landscape, as it would require road safety barriers and signs that are inappropriate for the area.
- The underpass would not be effective, as there is no evidence that the chickens would use it or benefit from it.
The community council has urged the council’s planning committee to reject the plan. The plan has also received one public objection from a local resident, who questioned the lack of information and consultation about the proposal.
What are the chances of the chicken underpass being approved?
The plan is due to go before the council’s planning committee next week. The planning officers have recommended the plan for approval, saying that it complies with the local development plan and that it would not have a significant impact on the environment or the road safety.
The planning officers have also suggested some conditions for the approval, such as:
- The underpass should be monitored and maintained regularly to ensure its safety and functionality.
- The underpass should be landscaped and screened to minimise its visual impact.
- The underpass should be accompanied by an educational and promotional campaign to inform the public about its purpose and benefits.
The final decision, however, rests with the elected members of the planning committee, who will consider the views of the applicants, the objectors and the planning officers. The committee will also take into account the local councillor’s request to call in the plan, which indicates that there are local concerns about the application.
Will the chicken underpass set a precedent for other farms?
If the plan is approved, the chicken underpass would be the first of its kind in Scotland and possibly in the UK. The farm says that the underpass is a novel and innovative solution to the challenge of providing more space for free range chickens.
The farm also says that the underpass could inspire other farms to adopt similar measures to improve the welfare and sustainability of their operations. The farm hopes that the underpass would showcase the high standards and quality of its eggs and attract more customers.
However, the plan could also face legal challenges or appeals from the opponents, who may argue that the underpass is unnecessary, impractical or harmful. The plan could also raise questions about the regulation and definition of free range farming, and whether the underpass is compatible with the natural behaviour and needs of the chickens.