End in sight for the Woolpit Whiff?

By Dave GooderhamDECADES of suffering in a picturesque village blighted by a foul-smelling odour could finally be reaching an end after a landmark High Court ruling.

By Dave Gooderham

DECADES of suffering in a picturesque village blighted by a foul-smelling odour could finally be reaching an end after a landmark High Court ruling.

Relieved residents in Woolpit spoke last night of their delight after judges ruled the owner of Rookery Farm, which they blamed for the odour, had been using a rendering plant unlawfully.

Mr Justice Newman, sitting in the High Court yesterday found in favour of Mid Suffolk District Council, which has fought a long-running battle against farmer John Clarke.

The decision paves the way for the council to put an injunction to stop the industrial rendering at Mr Clarke's farm. His right to appeal was also withheld, but the farmer vowed last night to scrutinise the judgment.

But community leaders spoke of their hope that the ongoing saga of the smell - which has been dubbed the Woolpit Whiff and has been blamed on falling house prices in the area - could be soon over.

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Woolpit district councillor Ramon Melvin said: “I am sure the whole village will be pleased with the High Court decision. It has been a long struggle, but hopefully this will be the end of the Woolpit Whiff.

“I have lived in the village for 35 years and it has been a problem for most of that time. In the past the smell has been appalling. Woolpit is a wonderful village to live in, but the smell has spoilt it.

“The decision does pave the way for the council to issue an injunction if Mr Clarke continues to use the rendering plant without consent.

“But it remains to be seen what he does next. Either way, one would hope that the smell would be substantially reduced or gone for good.”

Parish council chairman Trevor Howard added: “I think residents are going to be absolutely delighted.

“A lot of people felt this day would never come and I think a lot of people have done an awful amount of work to ensure it has.

“At times the smell has been quiet blatant - although this depends on the weather and the wind. But I think the number of complaints made to the district council on a fairly regular basis - about 20 to 30 a month - gives you an idea of the feeling in the village.”

Mid Suffolk District Council has long fought to bring an end to the smells coming from rending operations at Rookery Farm.

Mr Clarke had been granted permission to cook swill for his herd of pigs, but the livestock use ended in 2002 following the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

The council then claimed Mr Clarke breached the terms of his original agricultural planning permission by carrying on with rendering after he took offal and other waste from food processing factories and converted it into fertiliser.

Speaking after the hearing, Sara Michell, the council's portfolio holder for planning, said: “The council and the residents have had to resort to law to end the odour nuisance, but we are pleased with the outcome.”

But Mr Clarke vowed to examine the High Court decision, which he described as “strange”.

He added: “The judge's conclusion appears to be inconclusive as we have only been using the rendering plant for agricultural use and not industrial as the council claims.

“The way the judgment has been worded seems a little strange and we will now have to look into the decision and see what it actually means. We are not going to give up and we will continue to use the unit for agricultural purposes.”


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