A Lincolnshire egg producer has been fined £65,000 for operating without the required environmental permits.
L J Fairburn, one of the largest egg producers in the UK, ran five sites across the county with more than 40,000 birds each between at times between February 1, 2007, and February 17, 2012, without being authorised by an environmental permit.
At one time, Back Lane Poultry Unit at Bilsby had 186,810 birds - more than four times the number of birds it should have.
Skegness Magistrates' Court was told that any unit with more than 40,000 places for poultry needs to be permitted.
The five Fairburn sites without permits were Belchford Farm, Belchford; Marsh Farm, Burgh-le-Marsh; Burgh-le-Marsh Poultry Unit, Burgh-le-Marsh; Back Lane Poultry Unit, Bilsby and Batchelor Farm, Woodhall Spa.
Mrs Anne-Lise McDonald, prosecuting for the Environment Agency, explained that a poultry permit is granted subject to a number of conditions to protect the environment and local communities from the effects of ammonia and methane emissions, particulates that can affect human health, slurries, wash waters, fuels and chemicals with the potential to pollute.
She said that L J Fairburn failed to apply for permits in 2010 even when the company found out that they were required.
Mrs McDonald said the company had also avoided annual subsistence fees of more than £50,000.
The court also heard that one of the sites, Batchelor Farm, was near to three sites of special scientific interest (SSSI) and there was limited evidence of manure being stored without proper precautions.
Nigel Burn for the company said that they were embarrassed by the failure to have the permits and the farms are now compliant with permitting rules.
As well as the fines, the firm has been ordered to pay costs of £9,500.
After the hearing, Environment Agency officer Rebecca Tremain said: “We regulate intensive agricultural operations in order to protect human health and the environment. Operating without permits means that these risks were not assessed or regulated.”