Pig farm plan raises a stink

PLANS to build Britain's biggest pig farm in the Scottish Highlands have alarmed local people, who are worried about living next door to the annual 50,000 tonnes of manure it would produce.

The Pig Improvement Company (PIC), a subsidiary of pet food giant Dalgety, is seekingplanning permission for a 60-acre site in woodland on the outskirts of Inverness that would house up to 24,000 breeding sows and 80 boars.

Objectors, who are demanding a full public inquiry, are concerned about the effects on the environment and the tourist industry of the smell, pollution and traffic from the farm.

About five miles separate the site at Drummossie Muir from two of Scotland's most famous landmarks: Loch Ness to the west and Culloden to the east, where Bonnie Prince Charlie fought his last battle in 1746.

"People come to Scotland because it is a clean and pleasant land," said Marilyn Shine, a campaigner against the farm. "This will be an intensive indoor pig factory. The animals will not see a single blade of grass."

Local people are annoyed by claims that the centre will boost the local economy. Although the farm will employ 35 staff and create up to 30 jobs during the year-long construction phase, it is likely to kill off plans for a luxury hotel and golf course complex less than a mile downwind.

In an statement to the local council, PIC argues that according to Met Office data, "Only in exceptional meteorological conditions will there be any risk of odour from the farm at the boundary of the site."

Colin Lamont, a local resident, disagrees. "That wind direction was taken from the airport at Inverness, 10 miles away. Up in the glens here you can have snow on the ground when there is none down there."

PIC claims the pig slurry will be good for the environment: "It will be injected into farmland and young forestry, so returning nutrients back to the ground for crop production," a spokesman said. "A waste management plan is in the course of preparation and will be submitted to the Highland Regional Council."

He also played down suggestions that PIC was seeking public or European funds for the pounds 5m to pounds 7m project, other than local grants.

"The company is not intending to make an application for EU funds and any local grant would be minimal and only in support of the creation of jobs in the locality," he said.