'Woolpit whiff' farmer facing court date

THE farmer at the centre of the notorious “Woolpit Whiff” controversy is set for another High Court showdown with a local authority.Mid Suffolk District Council believes John Clarke has breached an undertaking given four years ago not to cause an odour nuisance from Rookery Farm, Drinkstone.

THE farmer at the centre of the notorious “Woolpit Whiff” controversy is set for another High Court showdown with a local authority.

Mid Suffolk District Council believes John Clarke has breached an undertaking given four years ago not to cause an odour nuisance from Rookery Farm, Drinkstone.

The case is now set to return to the High Court, where it is hoped the long-running saga may finally be resolved.

For many years there have been complaints about severe smells coming from the farm, which in the neighbouring village to Drinkstone have been dubbed the Woolpit Whiff.

Mr Clarke said yesterday he did not believe he had done anything wrong.

But last night, David Ellis, head of environment and planning at the council, said: “The council took Mr Clarke to court in December 2000. At that point, he gave an undertaking not to cause an odour nuisance from Rookery Farm.

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“He implemented his solution the following year. What we now say is that Mr Clarke hasn't kept his undertaking and is in breach of it, which requires us to go back to court and apply to restore proceedings that were being held in 2000.

“We have had complaints about the smell. We had a substantial number in August last year, we have had a number of complaints in June this year.

“If the judge agrees he has breached his undertaking, that in effect is contempt of court.”

One of the key issues is whether the operations at Rookery Farm are in line with its planning permission.

Mid Suffolk council says there is industrial rendering taking place at the site, and it insists that breaches its planning consent. But Mr Clarke believes he has permission for all the activities on the farm.

The council hopes to settle the issue by applying for planning injunction proceedings, which will be served on Mr Clarke in the next few days. A court will then hear evidence from both sides before deciding the issue.

Mr Ellis said: “The planning injunction will determine whether the current use [of Rookery Farm] is lawful or not. We believe it is not being used lawfully in relation to the application.”

Mr Clarke said last night the cooking plant was used for cooking poultry up to make fertiliser.

He added: "I am going to keep fighting, although no-one wants to go to prison and this has been very stressful for me.

“As far as I am concerned, I have had planning permission for the cooking plant for the last four years.

"I think this is just a case of two different people's interpretations of it. I have asked the council to look at the planning permission as I don't think I am doing anything wrong."

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