'Woolpit Whiff' farmer dies

THE farmer at the centre of the long-running Woolpit Whiff controversy died today after a long illness.

Simon Tomlinson

THE farmer at the centre of the long-running Woolpit Whiff controversy died yesterday after a long illness.

John Clarke had been battling the council and neighbours over the infamous smell coming from the animal rendering plant on his farm in Drinkstone.

In the latest development in the dispute, which has stretched back 20 years, the High Court last month overturned a certificate of lawful use for the operation after a challenge by Mid Suffolk District Council.

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Paying tribute to Mr Clarke, a close friend said was a “real gentleman” and did what he felt was right to protect his business.

Bob Baker, a neighbouring farmer who has known Mr Clarke for 50 years, said: “I was very, very sorry to hear of his death.

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“He has been ill for many years and has been a very brave man under the circumstances.

“I liked John immensely. He had many very good friends. He was a real gentleman, supported charities and did a lot for a lot of people. If I ever had a problem he would do something about it.”

People living in the area have described the odours emanating from Rookery Farm, near Bury St Edmunds, as “atrocious”.

In February 2006, Mid Suffolk District Council won a High Court injunction barring animal rendering activities at Mr Clarke's farm.

But earlier this year a government planning inspector granted Mr Clarke permission to continue the operation.

This decision was overturned by a High Court judge last month.

Mr Clarke had claimed the legal battles had cost Mid Suffolk District Council more than �750,000.

Mr Baker, 70, said Mr Clarke found it difficult dealing with the battle over his business.

He added: “He was doing a job that needed doing. It had to be done somewhere.

“He felt he was in the right and he stuck to his guns because he was doing a job he had been given permission to do.”

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