A CONTROVERSIAL plan to build a large-scale chicken farm on the outskirts of York has been withdrawn by the developer.

The scheme to install six poultry sheds, together housing up to 288,000 broiler chickens at Bradley Lane in Rufforth, was recommended for refusal by City of York Council.

But a day before the council's planning committee was due to vote on it, farming company H Barker and Son withdrew the plan.

Pressure group Animal Aid claimed it had been pulled following its "vigorous" campaign against the chicken farm.

But H Barker and Son has not specified a reason for its decision and could launch a fresh application.

Stephen Courcier, agent for the application at Carter Jonas LLP, said: "At the moment, we are considering all the options.

"We are looking at the different concerns raised by all the parties."

The report from council development management officer Erik Matthews urged members to refuse the scheme.

He said: "The development by virtue of its scale, location and visual relationship to the local topography would give rise to serious detrimental harm to the open character of the Green Belt contrary to paragraph 79 of the National Planning Policy Framework.

"The development by virtue of its close physical relationship to a principal runway of Rufforth Airfield without adequate mitigation measures incorporated in to the development would unacceptably compromise the safe and efficient operation of the aviation activities at the adjacent site."

Councillors said they had to rule on the scheme for planning reasons and not ethical concerns.

Animal Aid said more than 5,000 people submitted objections to the plans following an investigation it launched into another of H Barker and Son's chicken farms.

Campaign manager Isobel Hutchinson said: "We are greatly encouraged that this new chicken farm will not be going ahead, and we would like to thank everyone who spoke out and helped to make this happen.

"We do realise, however, that the application could be re-submitted at any point and will be ready to take action if this does happen.

"As well as stopping the farm in question, we feel sure that our campaign has helped to open people's eyes to the terrible suffering endured by farmed chickens, and would encourage anyone who has been moved by their plight to drop meat and other animal products and adopt a cruelty-free diet."

The scheme received objections from York Outer MP Julian Sturdy and city council leader Chris Steward, who is the local ward member, as well as residents living nearby.

However, the NFU, wrote in support saying it is essential that farmers like the Barkers can extend their businesses, bringing jobs to the area and helping to produce "cost effective" food for the British market.