Pig farmer moves to reassure neighbours

JPCT 06-02-13 S13063381X Steyning. Pig farmer, Jo Ledder, at Red Gate Farm -photo by Steve Cobb
JPCT 06-02-13 S13063381X Steyning. Pig farmer, Jo Ledder, at Red Gate Farm -photo by Steve Cobb
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A pig farmer has moved to reassure residents who are angry about the impact of the animals on the South Downs.

The family-run business at Red Gate Farm, on the crest of Annington Hill, near Steyning, rears free range pigs - a British trade that is gradually being lost to the importing of meat products.

Nearby residents in the area have argued that the ‘sight and smell is awful’.

Farmer Joe Ledder, who works on the farm with his father Tom and younger brother Jack, said it was not just local farmers who had shown them support, but residents and tourists too.

“There are residents against us, but it’s by no means lots of them,” he said.

“There are quite a few people behind us and they are pleased that there’s farming in the area.”

Complaints were raised at a parish council meeting in Bramber and Beeding Village Hall last month concerning a yellow run-off that flowed into the road below.

Mr Ledder explained: “When it rains water goes down the hill. The yellowish colour is the mix of mud and downland chalk.

“I can assure you it’s not slurry.”

Complaints were also raised about the view, which resident Denise McCormac, said has ‘destroyed a beautiful place’.

Mr Ledder said: “We use corrugated tin huts to house the pigs, these are industry standard.

“All other pigs in the country are stored in these, to provide shelter when it’s cold and during the summer.”

“As for mud on the farm, there is a little bit, but no more than you’d find in any other place in the farming industry.”

Located on the South Downs National Park, by a local nature trail popular with tourists, Mr Ledder said the land where the farm is now situated was fallow and covered in deadly weeds.

“The land was covered in a yellow weed called ragwort which is poisonous to sheep,” he said. “It’s all gone now, we’ll just need to keep an eye on it.”

At the parish council meeting to hear residents voice their opinions for and against the farm, Mr Ledder spoke of their ongoing co-operation.

“We’ve had the environment agency round and we’re involved with all the relevant agencies needed to run the farm.”

Trevor Beattie, chief executive of the South Downs National Park, said his team were working closely with the farmer and local authorities to monitor the situation.

But Mr Ledder said he and the family were happy to listen to residents’ thoughts.

“I can understand people are concerned and are welcome to voice their opinions and we’ll work through it together. Everyone has the right to complain.”

Bramber Parish Council chairman Roger Potter led the meeting last month and said residents described the smell of the farm as ‘very noxious’ and were ‘fearful’ that the run-off of mud could cause obstructions in the road.

He also admitted that the farmers were ‘doing nothing wrong’ and had been very ‘co-operative’.