Plans by a city abattoir to expand have caused a heated row among councillors and residents with its owners.

The Pak Mecca Meats Ltd slaughterhouse wants to build a new sheep-holding area in an empty industrial unit next to its current site in Barford Street, Highgate.

But residents in the area and councillors say the city centre is no place for an abattoir in the 21st Century.

They are calling on the owners to enter into negotiations with council chiefs about relocating to an industrial area.

After hearing residents’ concerns, members of the city council’s planning committee yesterday put off making a decision until they had more information about the impact of the expansion on neighbouring streets.

The application is to build a new area to hold the sheep waiting to go into the abattoir.

At the moment an average of 900 sheep per day are killed there but sometimes this rose to as many as 3,000.

The new holding area would hold a maximum of 850 sheep at any one time divided among 13 pens.

At the moment the animals are held in a smaller area within the abattoir.

They are delivered from local farms between 4am and 8pm seven days a week in big lorries.

More than 100 residents who live in nearby Bissell Street, Barford Street and St Luke’s housing estate sent in letters of objection, listing 13 different reasons why the extension should be refused.

These include the traffic congestion the lorries caused, concerns over animal cruelty, sheep skins and fluids left lying on the road and the smells the slaughterhouse brought.

Their worries were echoed by councillors.

Coun Mike Sharpe (Lab, Tyburn) backed the residents’ concerns, saying each application the abattoir had put before them over the years had been for a “bigger and bigger” operation.

“Yet here we are again. I want a detailed report on the real transport problems residents face,” he said.

Coun Margaret Waddington (Con, Sutton Trinity) said just because the abattoir had been there for nearly 50 years “did not make it right”.

“I have been inside there and it’s disgusting. We should not have animals in the middle of our city,” she said.

Coun Bob Beauchamp (Con, Erdington) said: “More and more residents are complaining. This started out as a small slaughterhouse and they have abused the consent they have been given.”

After the meeting the abattoir’s owner Mohammed Akram said it had operated there since the 1960s, was regularly inspected by meat hygiene and trading standards officers and met all Government standards.

Mr Akram said he would be willing to enter into talks with the council over relocating to an out-of-town site.