PLANS by a poultry plant near Wrexham to increase the number of chickens it processes to a million a week could cause more road accidents, a hearing has been told.

Maelor Foods launched an appeal after proposals to increase the number of birds it can process for meat at its factory in Cross Lanes were rejected by councillors in Wrexham on two occasions.

The application to up the current limit of 400,000 birds a week was made as the firm looks to expand operations at the £20m facility to meet demand.

Around 70 people gathered at Wrexham Memorial Hall today for a public hearing, including a large number of residents from the village and other communities who wanted to voice their objections.

Planning inspector Hywel Wyn Jones said the main issues to be considered were the impact on road safety and the living conditions of residents.

According to figures put forward by the company, the changes would increase the number of lorries visiting the site from four an hour up to 12.

People living nearby have claimed it will also lead to a rise in collisions at the junction between the A525 and Pickhill Lane, potentially putting lives at risk.

Stuart Richards, a farmer who lives in Cross Lanes, said: “Over the years we’ve had loads of people crashing, some wagons and some cars.

“There’s a likelihood that if there’s a crash on that road it’s probably going to be someone in this room who uses it all the time.

“If I am ever the first person out to a fatal accident because of that factory, I would say the risk would be on anyone’s head who’s agreed that the junction is acceptable for big wagons to go over the middle line on a very fast stretch of road.”

Many residents have also expressed concerns about the smell generated by the site, as well as being kept awake at night by the noise from lorries carrying chickens.

Geoff Dutton, who lives opposite, said: “The vehicle movements at two, three and four in the morning continually wake us up every week day.

“Sometimes they come one after the other, which we find totally unacceptable.

“For the company to say the lorries are going out at peak times is misleading in my view.”

In response to the issues raised, Maelor Foods bosses said if permission was granted by the inspector they would carry out road improvements including widening the junction.

The plans would also see the company take on the former Lloyd Fraser haulage site next door to help manage lorries moving in and out.

They added the expansion of the facility would create a minimum of 80 new jobs and benefit the local economy, including farmers in the area.

Acting on behalf of the firm, planning lawyer Stuart Andrews said: “The need for 24/7 operation is a product of the use of the site.

“The issues as to highway safety and the function of the surrounding roads haven’t given rise to any issues.

“The facility itself can’t be effective without out of hours operation.

“The contribution of noise impact and associated concerns have to be seen in the context of the flow of activity in the general locality.”

He added odour issues were a matter which needed to be dealt with by Natural Resources Wales.

The objections raised by residents at the hearing were supported by both the MP and AM for Clwyd South.

Ken Skates and Susan Elan Jones recently met with campaigners to offer their backing and also made written submissions to the inspector.

Mr Skates said: “I have previously made formal representations to Wrexham Council in support of my constituents to register their objections, which include fears that heavy traffic on the extremely busy A525 will be exacerbated to dangerous levels and unpleasant odours which spreads for miles around.

“With production set to more than double, it is easy to see why people living close to the plant fear these problems will only get worse.

“There is also genuine concern about the welfare of the animals, particularly surrounding the conditions they are transported in and the extended length of time they are kept in the heavy goods vehicles around the industrial estate.”

But speaking on behalf of 21 farmers who supply Maelor Foods, Elaine Rees Jones, who runs a poultry farm in Pentrefoelas, Conwy, said: ”For us as farming families, the poultry sector is the heart of our business and allows us to safeguard our own family’s future, employment and many directly employed staff members.

“Poultry being a non-subsidised platform removes our reliance on government support and we are also meeting the demand of the UK population as they continue to demand chicken meat in ever increasing numbers.”

Mr Wyn Jones said he would make his decision on the appeal known at a future date.