The Environment Agency has joined opponents to a multi-million-pound free range egg development planned by Fridays.
The Kent based company, which is one of the leading packers in the UK, has applied to Maidstone Borough Council for production units housing a total of 192,000 free range layers.
Three sheds, each housing 64,000 birds and built with the addition of winter gardens, would be built at a cost of £3 million each under the plan.
Fridays says the development would be state-of-the-art.
But the proposal has met with stiff opposition from local residents near the site at Chainhurst, near Marden.
The animal rights group PETA has been raising a petition against the proposal and they have been joined in their opposition by local parish councils and by the Environment Agency.
The agency has submitted its formal response to Maidstone’s planning department and it says that Fridays’ plan would have “significant impact on the river-floodplain habitat corridor and the ability to deliver elements of the SSSI restoration plan.”
It said: “Insufficient information has been provided to assess the risks posed by this activity, with little detail of mitigation or compensation measures to address any identified risks.
“We recommend that the planning application is refused on this basis.”
Fridays’ application has also attracted opposition from a number of local parish councils.
Marden Parish Council is opposing the plan over highways and safety concerns, it objects to the proposed movement of public footpaths and it has raised a number of environmental concerns.
Submissions supporting the application include one from Aimee Mahony, the NFU’s chief poultry adviser.
She said the NFU supported the growth of UK egg production in order to achieve a more resilient UK-based food supply chain.
“We consider that the proposals offer an opportunity to achieve considerable public benefit: on environmental grounds, by safeguarding rural jobs and for reasons of national food security.
“We also believe that the retail marketplace presents a set of circumstances as to why this development is required,” she said in her submission.
She said Fridays was a long-established family run business in South East England, focusing on free range egg production, sandwich fillings and salads, and supplying a number of the major UK supermarket chains.
With nearly 300 staff, Fridays was an important local employer making a considerable contribution to the local rural economy.
“The company has identified a requirement to continue modernising in order to be able to meet increasing consumer demand for British free range eggs,” she said.