Animal test lab loses bid for new rural site

Letter of the day

Controversial plans to build a new animal testing laboratory in a rural village have been unanimously rejected.

Wickham Labs, currently based in Wickham, failed in its latest bid to win permission for a purpose-built facility at Torbay Farm in Lower Upham.

More than 20 animal rights protesters turned up to stage a demonstration outside the civic offices of Winchester City Council, where the planning committee was holding its meeting yesterday.

Several police officers watched the demonstration, and sat in on the meeting – which all the protesters initially came in to – but there was no trouble.

However, the committee was warned they would not be able to refuse the application on potential security problems.

Planning officer Neil Mackintosh told members: 'The actions of third parties cannot be controlled by the planning committee and are a matter for the police.'

After two-and-a-half hours the 10-member committee voted unanimously against the officer's recommendation to accept the proposals on the grounds that the building would be too large and its design unsympathetic for the rural setting.

The main proposed building was about 50m by 30m and nine-and-a-half metres high.

Echoing many of his colleagues, Councillor Ian Tait said: 'In an industrial estate or a business park this building would be fine – but we aren't, we are in Upham.'

Cllr Therese Evans, who represents Wickham and is also on the committee, acknowledged that security wasn't their concern, but added that Upham, in the Meon Valley, would not be a suitable place because of the attention the labs would attract.

She added: 'There was a demonstration a couple of weeks ago in Wickham where all the roads were closed and there were 130 police.'

Afterwards, veteran animal rights campaigner Helen Nelson said: 'We are absolutely delighted. We have been working so hard towards getting this result, it's such a relief.

'I'm sure they will try again – they're not going to give up. They think they can trample over everyone and get their own way, but this proves they can't.'

Moving the operation to Torbay Farm has been a longheld ambition for owner William Cartmell.

Ray Botterell, representing the labs at the meeting, refused to comment afterwards.