An ambition to create one of the world’s most advanced free range egg farms in open countryside has been rejected, with councillors concluding it would damage the landscape and impact on the area’s residents.

Almost three years after Morton on Swale free range egg farmer Steven Tweddle’s revised proposal to build two 9,762sq m buildings east of Pillrigg Lane, Thornton le Beans, near Northallerton, Hambleton District Council’s planning committee agreed the major development was not suited to the rural area.

The decision represents a rare move by the council to stand in the way of a large-scale business proposal.

Mr Tweddle had told the meeting his family had farmed in the area since the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and that he considered feeding the nation among his responsibilities.

He said: “My intentions are to allow future generations to farm by continuing to develop a robust and responsible business. Modern agriculture does not always look like traditional farming, but the ethos remains the same.

“We need to reflect market demand, embracing a greater understanding of welfare, husbandry and our effects on the environment.”

Mr Tweddle said he had lived with his family beside an egg farm of a similar scale without experiencing adverse impacts.

He added: “To achieve the goals of this project we are providing birds with significantly more space, natural light and enhanced recreational opportunities that support natural behaviour within the production system. This will go further than anything to date in this country, if not the world.”


The site of a proposed egg farm near Thornton le Beans

The site of a proposed egg farm near Thornton le Beans


While Mr Tweddle claimed his development would “eliminate sources of neighbour nuisances”, councillors said it was clear the venture would have a significant impact on the area and its residents. 

The meeting heard hundreds of resident had objected to the scheme and while there were concerns over the ammonia levels in the air and foul smells from the units, poultry manure deposited on farmland beside the Cod Beck presented a pollution risk.

A Thornton le Beans Parish Council spokeswoman said such developments fell under the same regulations as a nuclear power plant or chemical installations.

She said alongside landscape impacts alongside the noise, traffic, odours and dust that would be generated, which would “transform a location valued for its beauty and tranquility into an industrial site”.

A Borrowby parish councillor told the meeting industrial estates such as at Dalton were far more suitable locations for the egg farm.

Resident David Brown said: “Approving the industrialisation of the Cod Beck valley would be akin to using the canvas of a beautiful painting, such as a Turner or a Constable, to patch a hole in a shed roof. It would treat with contempt just about everybody except a few ruthless agri-businessmen.”

Ahead of the plan being rejected, ward councillor Andrew Robinson said the isolated location of the buildings, distant from any farmstead, coupled with their “extreme scale” went beyond what could be assimilated into the landscape.