Proposals for the first on-land salmon farm in England have been approved by councillors for construction to begin in Cleethorpes.
The 10-acre farm was proposed by AquaCultured Seafood and when constructed will produce 5,000 tonnes of salmon per year, making it one of the largest in the world.
The seafood company said on its website it was committed to establishing “north east Lincolnshire as a best practice example in UK aquaculture” and that the site would have no impact on conservation or protection of biodiversity in the area.
The developer said 100 jobs would be created. However, critics have raised concerns about its environmental impact and animal welfare.
Some councillors on North East Lincolnshire Council’s planning committee had raised concerns about the size, impact on nature and location, particularly questioning the energy consumption required to sustain the site, as well as the predicted waste output.
The site is estimated to produce as much effluent as 400,000 humans – a figure four-and-a-half times the size of Grimsby’s population. The energy required to power the farm could power 3,200 houses, said charity Animal Equality.
Four councillors on the committee were in favour of delaying the decision and commissioning an Environmental Impact Assessment, but the remaining seven voted in favour of the proposed fish factory.
The decision was described as “wholly irresponsible” by Abigail Penny, executive director at campaign group Animal Equality.
“The Planning Committee has just made history and for all of the wrong reasons,” she said. “Without an ounce of doubt, this super-sized salmon factory will give rise to untold death and destruction on Cleethorpes’ doorsteps.”
Penny went on to say that the charity would continue to protest the construction of this “monstrous fish factory”.
Animal welfare concerns were also echoed by Louise Valducci, head of food business (EU programme) at Compassion in World Farming, who said that the system proposed did not meet the standards expected for salmon.
“The facility will only provide a barren environment with no mental stimulation; it will also house an enormous number of fish which will be stocked at density way above our recommendation of 10kg/m³, and therefore stress the fish who will have to constantly fight for space to display their natural swimming behaviours,” she explained.
“From a biosecurity perspective it might stop infestation, but should a fault be detected in the systems the mortality risk is way above any level that would be satisfactory,” Valducci added.
Other concerns included that AquaCultured Seafood was being “wildly optimistic” about how the farm would run, according to Mark Borthwick, a doctoral fellow and former head of research at the Aquatic Life Institute.
“The company is promising efficiency which no farm in the world has ever managed to deliver,” he said. “There is no way this farm will be feasible, profitable, and have no impact on the wider environment.”