Abattoir on Brentwood green belt approved

A Brentwood slaughterhouse is to be built on green belt land after the local council approved the proposal.

West Horndon-based Cheale Meats which currently supplies around 400 tonnes of meat per week to mainland Europe and other worldwide destinations, and 300 tonnes per week for the UK market, says the expansion would enable a ‘significant increase’ in current production for UK wholesale.

It had argued that the additional 5,055sqm of floorspace, provided across three separate buildings being planned in the green belt, constitutes very special circumstances, particularly by protecting jobs.

It says the plans will secure the long-term future of the 120 jobs currently existing on site, as well as creating as many as 43 new positions.

The development will also include a combined heat and power (CHP) plant providing energy for the whole facility and which Cheale Meats says could reduce carbon emissions by up to 30 per cent.

Cheale Meats says the last two years have presented the business with unprecedented stress on the business – notably from the pandemic while energy costs for the operation of the abattoir tripled from £35,000 per month in January 2021 to £106,000 per month in February 2022 alone.

Planning committe member Councillor Keith Barber said: “We’ve we’ve recently voted through a battery farm. We’ve voted through a solar panel farm because of the need to provide energy in the UK.

“And similarly the crisis that we had recently in terms of transportation of food between countries revealed that we need to have more independence in terms of food production within our own country.”

He added: “I believe this application has enormous merit. I don’t think it’s something which we should say no to. I believe it’s also a sustainable development in that the site is one of the few applications I’ve seen where a business has already got solar power panels installed to actually provide their own electricity.

“If we really actually do believe in encouraging green business and supporting the rural economy then applications that come to us like this should be viewed sympathetically. I also believe that by having a more modern, larger facility at this site will actually improve animal welfare and the ability to actually manage things in a more hygienic more modern fashion.”

However, there were arguments that the benefits did not outweigh the harm to the green belt.

Planning member Cllr Phil Mynott said: “I understand the problem that the business is facing in terms of soaring energy costs but if we’re going to be in a world where as soon as energy costs soar you have to throw all of your green belt legislation out of the window.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter