Over the last decade we have expanded our production of free range eggs to meet growing UK demand, and to help reduce imports of eggs from Europe. Following widespread consultation, we are now seeking permission from Maidstone Borough Council for the construction and operation of a new free range egg farm on land at Reed Court Farm, Hunton Road, Chainhurst.
Although broadly similar to our existing free range houses, the new hen houses at Wealden Woods Free Range will have winter gardens flanking each side of the buildings. These winter gardens provide the hens extra shelter during adverse weather. The result is an increase in the width of the houses by 10m, resulting in the houses occupying 2.5% of the farm area.
- Hunton Road
- River Beult
- Vehicular access
- Hen house 1 and range area
- Existing woodland with 5m buffer
- Hen house 2 and free range area
- Hen house 3 and free range area
- Existing woodland with 5m buffer
The proposed three hen houses will cover 2.5% of the farming area.
The proposed Wealden Woods development would consist of three 262m by 31m poultry houses with extensive outdoor ranges and fencing, formal vehicle access from Hunton Road and associated parking, landscaping, woodland tree planting, drainage and other associated works.
Each poultry house costs in the region of £3 million and would be 8m high with two 8m feed silos adjacent to each house. They would contain up to 64,000 laying chickens, divided into four colonies of 16,000 birds.
The majority of the site’s arable land would be converted into ranges for the chickens and offer a mix of grassland alongside 50 acres of new native species woodland. Existing ancient woodland would be retained and kept separate from the ranges.
Each hen house will have its own range area, fenced using 1.95m high wire mesh fencing for bio-security reasons and to prevent access by foxes or other predatory animals. The fencing would be coloured dark green to help it blend in with the background.
The size of the houses and the supporting range areas are dictated by RSPCA, DEFRA and EU animal welfare standards on a per hen basis for free range farming. The farm will operate to the RSPCA’s assured free range hen farming certification and would produce approximately 60 million UK free range eggs a year.
As part of the Wealden Woods free range farm project we are seeking to create a riverside walk along the banks of the River Beult, to link with the network of public rights of way in the surrounding area. This would be set within a 25m-wide, 11-acre buffer zone between the fence and the river.
To one side, screening the fence, will be 2.5 acres of thick, habitat-rich hedgerow. On the riverbank side, there will be grassland and woodland planting.
The creation of the riverside walk and the diversion of existing public rights of way would be the subject of a separate application.
Fridays’ aim is for Wealden Woods to operate as a low carbon farm, using a combination of on-site carbon reduction technologies such as solar PV, the offsite anaerobic digestion of manure and carbon sequestering through the establishment of the 50 acres of mixed woodland. With on-site battery storage, the farm could potentially operate entirely independently from the national electricity supply network.
Several of our free range farms already use electricity from 100% renewable resources. We have invested in a new Anaerobic Digester Plant at one of our other farms that utilises 100% poultry manure to produce biogas and removes the need for our manure to be spread on local farmland.