Burgh and Bilsby poultry farmer fined £65,000 for having up to 140,000 more birds than allowed

A POULTRY company whose Bilsby farm reared up to four times as many birds as its licence allowed has been fined thousands for a string of offences.

Lincolnshire company LJ Fairburn, one of the largest egg producers in the UK, has been ordered to pay £65,000 for a number of licensing breaches at five farms in the county - including two in Burgh le Marsh and one in Bilsby.

The company has also been ordered to pay full legal costs of £9,500.

Skegness Magistrates’ Court last week heard that Fairburn ran five sites across the county with more than 40,000 birds each over varying times between February 1, 2007 and February 17 this year without being authorised by an environmental permit.

It heard that at one time Back Lane Poultry Unit at Bilsby had more than four times the number of birds permitted - the flock on that occasion numbering a whopping 186,810.

Magistrates were told that any unit with more than 40,000 places for poultry needs to be permitted.

The five Fairburn sites without permits were Belchford Farm, Belchford; Marsh Farm, Burgh le Marsh; Burgh le Marsh Poultry Unit, Burgh le Marsh; Back Lane Poultry Unit, Bilsby and Batchelor Farm, Woodhall Spa.

Mrs Anne-Lise McDonald, prosecuting for the Environment Agency, explained that a poultry permit is granted subject to a number of conditions to protect the environment and local communities from the effects of ammonia and methane emissions; particulates that can affect human health; and slurries, wash waters, fuels and chemicals with the potential to pollute.

She said that L J Fairburn failed to apply for permits in 2010 even when the company found out that they were required.

Mrs McDonald said the company had also avoided annual subsistence fees of over £50,000.

The court also heard that one of the sites, Batchelor Farm, was near to three sites of special scientific interest (SSSI) and there was limited evidence of manure being stored without proper precautions.

Nigel Burn for the company said that they were embarrassed by the failure to have permits. The farms are now compliant with permitting rules.

After the hearing, Environment Agency officer Rebecca Tremain said: “We regulate intensive agricultural operations in order to protect human health and the environment.

“Operating without permits means that these risks were not assessed or regulated.”

The firm was fined £5,000 for each offence.