Police remove pig farm protesters from Rugby planning meeting

Police summoned to the meeting.
Police summoned to the meeting.

Police were summoned to remove dozens of members of the public during a planning meeting last night which saw a councillor called an 'idiot' and plans for a pig farm rejected.

Residents previously set up a petition and a group, People in Grandborough say No Pigs, to oppose the plans, which would see the building of two barns to house up to 1,250 pigs each, a slurry store and feed bins on land off Broadwell Road.

The protest before the meeting.

The protest before the meeting.

The plans were subject to a consultation which ended on October 18, 2017.

Planning officers recommended the site for approval.

But campaigners argued the application doesn’t say how it will meet animal welfare regulations and that it could adversely affect neighbouring businesses including rare breed farms, smallholdings and caravan and camping sites.

Those involved with Woodbine Riding Stables, which provides riding lessons for the disabled, said the plans would negatively affect the business as pigs would spook the horses.

Campaigners for Woodbine Stables attending the protest before the meeting.

Campaigners for Woodbine Stables attending the protest before the meeting.

Dozens of residents, members of People In Grandborough Say No Pigs, staff and users of Woodbine Riding Stables as well as vegan and vegetarian campaigners protested outside the town hall in the hours leading up to the meeting.

The meeting took place at 5:30pm on Wednesday, February 21 - but within 45 minutes the police would be summoned and the public would be ordered to leave.

The public gallery in the council chamber was full as the meeting began.

The debate saw several councillors weigh concerns over the impact the proposed pig farm would have on the environment with the stated need to support farmers.

Cllr Lawrence said: "I have got some concerns. Firstly, I am not convinced it is the best location.

"I am not convinced that it is not going to impact on the landscape. From the photographs we have just seen of the buildings planned, I am not convinced they are designed to blend in to the landscape.

"I am concerned that by approving this we favour one rural business, one rural economy, at the expense of the other rural economies. And so for those reasons I am not going to be supporting."

Cllr Gillias said: "This is a difficult one. I'm a little surprised there's been no objections from third-party consultees about building in flood zone three.

"The whole area is a very very special landscape to us. Quite unique, because it's very very open."

Speaking of concerns raised over animal welfare, which is not a planning issue, he said: "I don't think animal welfare will come into this - I'm just coming at this purely through the structure of the building. I think modern techniques of farming are completely different to to what went on 30 years ago.

"I don't think there would be a problem with the animal welfare at all and I think there would be some smell but I think that would be very much reduced compared to what it used to be decades ago."

Beginning a chain of events which would see the police summoned to clear the room, Cllr Carolyn Watson-Merret said: "There are some objections - and yet there are some very good supportive structures in place for moving forward to the high technologies used in some of these units.

"When I looked at things like the sound pollution and the factors that are mitigating that - every single time I thought there would be a hurdle there was an answer to it.

"So whereas automatically you go in thinking 'all the alarm bells went off' - so many of them have been managed and sensibly answered. So I think I am mindful to support it.

"It's far away from the villages."

Laughter came from the public gallery before Cllr Simpson-Vince, who was chairing the meeting, asked for quiet.

Addressing concerns around the impact the plans may have on nearby Woodbine Stables, Cllr Watson-Merret said : "It is unfortunate that it is close to an established riding school. But there are other riding schools in the vicinity..."

She was stopped mid sentence after laughter and jeering erupted from public gallery - some shouted: "Shame."

Cllr Simpson-Vince once again asked for quiet.

Someone responded with "Shut up" and another shouted: "Idiot."

Cllr Watson-Merret said: "I object to being called an idiot. And I object...."

Another from the public gallery interjected with: "Well you are."

Cllr Watson-Merret said: "I think that person should be removed so I can finish my conversation."

Cllr Simpson-Vince said: "Right, I am suspending this meeting for five minutes. And I'm going to ask the public to please leave."

The gallery erupted with shouting - one member of the public said: "We refuse to leave."

One man said: "You're not listening to these people. You're simply not listening. I can walk out now, I will go.

"You are not listening to these people. There's a farmer over there and that lady has said we ought to support farmers. He's not the only one in the room. He owns Woodbine Stables."

Cllr Simpson Vince once again asked the public to leave - then the police entered the room.

One man said: "Can you tell me what offences are being committed?"

While another said: "I can't believe Rugby council is getting the police in to eject me."

Around five minutes after being ordered to leave several members of the public were still present.

Police told them they may be arrested for a public order offence if they did not leave - to which one man replied: "Think of the paperwork."

Several more people left, although some remained.

One woman was again threatened with arrest for a public order offence.

She later told the Advertiser she has no previous convictions and was prepared to be arrested had it not been for her daughter - who 'burst into tears'.

As the final members of the public left the gallery, two threw pink hi-visibility jackets they had been wearing onto the councillors below - prompting one councillor to reply with a thanks.

The meeting resumed after all members of the public were removed - although shouting coming from outside the room was heard and police guarded the entrance to the meeting room.

Later in the meeting Cllr Watson-Merret said she wished to make it clear that she was cut-off when speaking about other riding stables and did not mean what members of the public had assumed.

She said she had meant to say there are other riding stables in the area with farms nearby and those stables had managed to continue operating.

Councillors voted to reject the application - with six against and four in favour.