'Woolpit whiff' farmer wins legal battle

THE farmer at the centre of the “Woolpit whiff” saga has won his latest dispute with Mid Suffolk District Council over his animal waste rendering operation.

John Howard

THE farmer at the centre of the “Woolpit Whiff” saga has won his latest dispute with Mid Suffolk District Council over his animal waste rendering operation.

John Clarke, from Rookery Farm in Drinkstone, near Woolpit, whose business turns avian waste into fertilizer, appealed to The Planning Inspectorate after the local authority refused to grant him a rendering permit.

Mr Clarke has had permission to carry out rendering since 1999 but in 2004 the regulations changed and a permit was needed, sparking the latest battle with the authorities. If he had lost his appeal, he would have not been able to continue the work.


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But Inspector Edward Simpson, who held a hearing earlier this year at Needham Market, said there had been a lack of detailed evidence of specific operational or management failures at the plant provided by the council.

And he found that the business used the best available technology within the industry, deciding in favour of the farmer and ordering the council to issue the permit.

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Mr Clarke, who deals with about 40,000 tons of avian waste a year, said yesterday that, including barrister fees and consultants costs, he had spent £100,000 securing the permit.

He said: “We render animal waste, turning it into fertilizer. The chicken industry is one of the biggest industries within East Anglia and there is a terrific lot of waste to deal with.

“In 2003 it was decided that you should not bury farm dead and they had to be rendered, and somebody has got to do it. The next nearest plants are near Coventry and at Crewe.

“If we did not do it, it would still need to be processed somewhere else and would involve miles more travelling, which is not environmentally friendly.

“We are pleased with this result, although I don't know what all the fuss was about really. Once we have got the permit we have got to comply with it and I am not in business to be a nuisance to anybody. We try our best not to be.”

Mr Simpson had been told of extensive complaints from local residents concerning about the operation.

He heard that there have been numerous incidents when offensive odours from the rendering business had affected local residents in their homes, and complaints linked to manure spreading and slurry work on land controlled by Mr Clarke.

But he said there had not been any significant number of prosecutions by the council and it would not be reasonable to believe that the farmer would not comply with any appropriate conditions imposed on his operation.

Tim Passmore, Conservative leader of Mid Suffolk District Council, said: “He has won this at appeal and we are looking at the judgement carefully. We are considering our position and whether it is worth appealing this. I fully understand how residents feel.

“The authority has to make sure we do the right thing for local people, but also bear in mind the likelihood of success in spending more money.

“We have to work within the legal confines. We will take stock and decide what to do within the next week.”

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