�750,000 legal cost of Woolpit Whiff

MORE than �750,000 of taxpayers' cash has been spent trying to rid the Suffolk countryside of a notorious smell, it is claimed.

Will Clarke

MORE than �750,000 of taxpayers' cash has been spent trying to rid the Suffolk countryside of a notorious smell, it is claimed.

For the past 20 years John Clarke, of Rookery Farm, Drinkstone, near Bury St Edmunds, has been at the centre of the “Woolpit Whiff” controversy.

Those living in the area describe odours emanating from his farm as “atrocious” and sometimes so bad it makes residents “feel sick”.

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Mid Suffolk District Council has fought Mr Clarke through the courts in a bid to bring the smell under control. But Mr Clarke has claimed the council's legal bills over the years have mounted to more than �750,000 and has accused the authority of wasting taxpayers' cash.

Last June, Mr Clarke won his case against Mid Suffolk, which is planning to mount an appeal. The council has declined to comment on its legal costs in the case but claims it stood by its decision to fight the issue through the courts.

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Mr Clarke said: “We have had numerous court hearings and inquiries, which have cost both sides a huge amount of money.

“A large part of that is attributable to the High Court injunction obtained against me, which it is now clear should never have been granted.

“I heard that one of the council officers stated two years ago, that their total costs bill exceeded �750,000 then, and that must have gone up by at least another �100,000 since.

“I believe that it is high time that the council's officers responsible for taking these decisions, came clean and explained to everyone how much taxpayers' money has been committed to this already, and how they can justify spending even more now.

“They will probably say that they are acting on legal advice, but these are not decisions that should be driven by lawyers.”

John Wiley, vice chairman of Woolpit Parish Council, backed Mid Suffolk's decision to take action on the Woolpit Whiff.

“We have had an atrocious stink for about two weeks - at times it is indescribable and it makes you feel sick,” he said. “The council totally supports Mid Suffolk and other councils agree with us.”

A spokeswoman for Mid Suffolk District Council said: “It would not be appropriate to comment on our legal costs as we are still involved in legal proceedings on the matter.

“The Rookery Farm application has been ongoing for 20 years and has taken money and staff time from our planning department and our environmental health team.

“As a council, we must, by law, examine each planning application made and also any nuisance complaint. Over this period, we have received a number of nuisance complaints, and each one has had to be investigated by an officer.

“We have also had to allow money and officer time to deal with the planning applications and any appeals that have been made. We feel that our actions have been justified and we stand by our actions.”

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