Brentwood abattoir expansion onto green belt land would ‘ensure business can continue operating’

A Brentwood slaughterhouse wants special permission to expand its operations by building into the green belt in the face of ‘unprecedented challenges’.

West Horndon-based Cheale Meats 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, in the form of carcasses.

In addition, offal and by-products are used for energy generation and pet food production.

In the UK market, Cheale Meats currently sends younger pork carcasses to wholesale depots nationally, which then are supplied to butcher shops.

It says the expansion would enable a ‘significant increase’ in current production for UK wholesale.

The new facility would comprise of new deboning and packing facilities, HGV maintenance and parking area and additional storage.

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.

It says that despite the development being planned in the green belt it 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 create as many as 43 new positions.

The additional employment will predominantly result from the new cutting and deboning hall which involve more labour-intensive processes.

Cheale Meats says the last two years have presented the business with unprecedented stress on the business – notably from the COVID-19 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.

Those energy costs are set to increase even further given the spike announced that would see the average household paying more than £3,500 a year for fuel.

A statement as part of a planning application to Brentwood Borough Council says: “In light of these issues, the applicant has been looking closely at the business’ supply chain, processing and energy efficiencies, and how best to plan for a successful future.

“It is clear the business cannot stand still and significant investment into additional facilities are needed to ensure the business can continue operating.”

It added the proposed development is required in order to modernise the business to stay in line with changing food safety practices and hygiene standards – the proposal will also increase capacity of the abattoir and provide upgraded facilities which will enable retail packing to take place at the site, a process which currently has to be undertaken elsewhere.

This will enable the company to supply direct to UK supermarkets. In addition, the proposal will facilitate growing international exports, particularly to Asia which is increasingly becoming an important consumer market for British meat.

It added: “The proposed expansion of the development site will have a number of significant benefits including the retention of existing rural employment and provision of new jobs into the Borough, the decarbonisation of the business to net zero and expansion of renewable energy generation on site, ecological and landscape enhancements with expanded tree cover, the incorporation of sustainable drainage features and the provision of sustainable transport modes for staff and improved facilities, and the accordance with the regulatory framework of the Food Standards Agency.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter