CAMPAIGNERS who have been calling for a controversial chicken farm to be shut down said they are pleased an official hearing will be held to discuss the farm's appeal to retain cladding on its warehouses.

Applicant, Amber Real Estate Investments Ltd, submitted a planning application in 2018 to retain the 'goose-wing grey' cladding on five of its warehouses at Newbridge Farm in East Huntspill.

But planners at Sedgemoor District Council refused planning permission as they said the cladding appeared 'dominant and out of keeping' with the surrounding area and has an 'adverse visual impact' which would affect the surrounding countryside.

Now, two years after the initial application was refused Amber Real Estate Investments Ltd has submitted an appeal to keep the cladding on its roofs and is due to meet with planners at Sedgemoor District Council on October 6.

The chicken farm, which is located in New Road, has received hundreds of complaints over the past four years from local residents who say the smell coming from the site is 'unbearable'.

The farm's operator, Hook 2 Sisters, said it was working with the Environment Agency to resolve the issue and in July 2018 cut the number of birds on site from 321,000 to 192,000, leaving one of its five sheds empty.

But residents said the 'foul' odour continued to linger and launched a petition calling for the farm to be closed down. The campaigners also started a Facebook group called ‘Fowl Play at East Huntspill' to campaign against poultry farming units.

Ian Stanbury, a resident who lives near Newbridge Farm, has been campaigning for the farm to close for a number of years and said he is hopeful action will now be taken by the authorities against the farm.

"We are pleased that the date for the hearing has actually been set. It’s been over four years since the site at Newbridge Farm was redeveloped and became an extremely conspicuous blot on the Somerset landscape," Ian said.

"It’s highly visible from the top of Brent Knoll let alone from the nearby tourist-dependent caravan and camping parks.

"We think it’s crazy that it has taken this long for such a significant and obvious breach of planning permission to be dealt with. Without the continued pressure from our campaign providing a focus for nearby residents and local business owners to voice their objections, this issue is unlikely to have been addressed.

"We hope the hearing is a step towards the site owner, Amber Real Estate Investments, being brought to account for what we believe is a flagrant disregard of planning rules.

"At the same time, the site owner’s sister company, Hook 2 Sisters, which runs the industrial chicken farming operation, is also under scrutiny. They are coming under increasing pressure from the Environment Agency to address the continued non-compliance with their Environmental Permit for the odour problems that have plagued locals for four years now.

"It has taken some time and tested our patience along the way but we’re hopeful action will now be taken by the authorities to sort out this planning and environmental travesty."