Court rules on 'Woolpit whiff' farmer

YEARS of misery caused by a foul-smelling odour which has long blighted a picturesque Suffolk village are to finally come to an end - much to the delight of residents.

YEARS of misery caused by a foul-smelling odour which has long blighted a picturesque Suffolk village are to finally come to an end - much to the delight of residents.

An injunction was yesterday granted by the High Court preventing John Clarke, the notorious “Woolpit Whiff” farmer, from continuing to use his premises at Drinkstone, near Bury St Edmunds, for industrial rendering.

The ruling, by Mr Justice Newman in favour of Mid Suffolk District Council, comes into force on May 9. It is hoped the decision will give relief to villagers in nearby Woolpit - who have suffered for years at the hands of the odour, caused when poultry offal is cooked down at the Rookery Farm site.

“This has been a long haul for the residents, who have endured nuisance smells from an activity that became unlawful when the agricultural use of the site was replaced by an industrial one,” said Tim Passmore, leader of the district council.


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“The injunction allows Mr Clarke three months to put his affairs in order, after which he must stop using the premises for industrial rendering.

“Residents can now look forward to enjoying the summer. We want to see a successful and vibrant rural economy and farming is an integral part of this.”

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During the High Court hearing, Mr Justice Newman denied leave to appeal against the injunction decision. However, it is thought Mr Clarke will apply to the Court of Appeal to obtain permission to challenge the judgement.

“My colleagues and I have first hand experience of the odour problems that have continued since the activity on site became an industrial process, replacing the previous farming activities,” said John Grayling, environmental health manager at the council.

“It made us determined to successfully represent residents. The council has applied both planning and environmental health law to fighting the case, which saw Mr Clarke use every device possible to be allowed to continue. This is an important step in bringing this issue to a conclusion.”

The decision marks the climax of a long-running legal battle between the council and Mr Clarke. At the time of granting the injunction, Mr Justice Newman described the farmer's late application to amend his defence as “misconceived”.

He added: “(Mr Clarke) has shown himself to be adept at sustaining claims and applications which have been calculated to manipulate the planning regime,” before saying he had “no hesitation in saying that there must be an injunction.”

On legal advice, Mr Clarke declined to comment on the ruling yesterday, although he is expected to apply to the Court of Appeal to obtain permission to challenge the judgement. If the appeal is given the go ahead, there may be a delay with the injunction taking effect.

The court awarded the full costs of the legal action to the council.

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