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Family of Ruabon boy with rare genetic condition criticise decision to approve chicken farm

The family of a young boy with a rare genetic condition have been left upset after plans for a large chicken farm near their home were approved.

Last week, councillors narrowly backed a scheme to build four rearing sheds for up to 225,000 birds at Cinders Farm in Ruabon.

The decision came despite Wrexham Council receiving 65 objections from villagers, who were concerned about the scale of the development, as well as the impact it would have on the road network.

Among those who opposed the application were Evan and Clare Barker, who have spent around £40,000 adapting their family home with help from local authority funding for their son Toby, who has Smith-Magenis Syndrome.

The disorder is estimated to occur in around one in 25,000 births worldwide, and has led to him experiencing developmental delays and affected his hearing and sleep.

As their home is just 200 yards down the road, the Barkers fear the activity from the farm will exacerbate the 11-year-old’s condition, particularly the additional number of lorries using the road.

His dad Evan said: “Our biggest impact is going to be the volume of traffic on our little country lane.

“It’s not feasible down a country lane like that and with all the adaptions we’ve made to the house it’s not fair on us.

“Because he’s profoundly deaf, Toby makes up for it in other things, like he can feel vibrations. If he’s asleep and someone parks a car up he can wake up just like that.

“He’s got reverse melatonin, so he doesn’t sleep at night and he doesn’t really sleep in the day, so we have to give him a supplement.”

In order to meet Toby’s needs, his parents have had a quiet room and wet room installed at their home, as well raising money for him to have a sensory hot tub outside.

Both Evan and Clare have taken part in a number of marathons to raise funds for charity, as well as to highlight their son’s condition.

They said despite their concerns about the development, they don’t feel able to move away from the carefully adapted property.

Mr Barker said he was also worried about the possible odour from the site.

He added: “Toby doesn’t like change and when he comes back from school he has a little period where he’s unsettled, so he’ll place himself in the hot tub and chill.

“If the chicken farm does smell then we’re going to get it right into our back garden, which isn’t going to be pleasant when Toby’s in the hot tub.

“I know we need farms, but I think they could choose a better place to put it.”

Council officers in Wrexham recommended plans by Soaltar Farming for approval in advance of last week’s meeting after claiming they would have a positive economic impact.

They said traffic issues would be mitigated by conditions for the company to build new passing places along Cinders Lane, and improve visibility at the junction onto the A539.

They added that the level of odour from the farm was unlikely to be harmful.

However, members of a campaign group set up against the proposals, which were granted permission by a single vote, have also slammed the decision.

Samantha Gibson from Concerned Residents Against Ruabon Chicken Farm said she believed the floodgates would open to similar applications.

She said: “This campaign has been active for some time now and waiting for the result has been stressful for those living closest to the site.

“We are pleased with the response to our appeal for objections and the council received 65 before making their decision.

“But democracy, public opinion and all the evidence we presented seems to have been ignored and replaced with a decision made mainly under the fear of costs should Soaltar Farming make an appeal.”

By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme).

Pictures: Evan Barker



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