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court ref no: co/3708/96 ...
court ref no: co/3708/96

Residents of a North Devon village dubbed 'Great Stinkington' because of the noxious smells from a local meat rendering plant today took their fight for a more fragrant future to London's high court.

The people of Great Torrington say their lives are being made a misery by the odours coming from a blood processing and meat rendering plant which is working flat-out to cope with the demands of the BSE cull.

And today Torridge DC lifted the banner on behalf of angry villagers, mounting a judicial review challenge to environment secretary John Gummer's decision to authorise the plant's operations.

The council's barrister, John Howell QC, said Mr Gummer had ackowledged that Peninsular Proteins Ltd's plant had in the past caused an 'odour nuisance' to nearby residents but had 'applied the wrong test' when he granted authorisation for its operations to continue in August last year.

Blood-processing and meat-rendering were 'proscribed' activities under the Environmental Protection Act which could only be lawful if authorised by the local authority.

Torridge DC had refused authorisation in January 1994 saying that, in its view, Peninsular Proteins could not meet the condition that 'all emissions shall be free from offensive odours' outside the plant's boundary.

The company appealed to an environment ministry inspector who recommended that authorisation be granted, but only on the condition laid down by the local authority.

But Mr Gummer disagreed, striking out the more stringent condition and replacing it with one that doing away with all offensive emissions outside the plant's boundary was an objective which should merely be 'aimed at', said Mr Howell.

Reading from Mr Gummer's decision letter, Mr Howell said the minister had ackowledged 'the history of odour nuisance associated with the process.'

But the letter went on: 'The offensiveness of the odour emitted has been markedly reduced since upgrading of the process during 1992.'

The nuisance was, said Mr Gummer, only an 'intermittent' one and could be minimised further by imposing conditions on Peninsular's operations.

The condition proposed by the district council that all unpleasant odours outside the plant's boundary be done away with would only be appropriate in 'exceptional circumstances' and, in this case, was 'unenforceable.'

But Mr Howell told Mr Justice McCullough the 'exceptional circumstances' test applied by Mr Gummer was 'wrong in law.'

But Peninsular's counsel, Clive Lewis, defended Mr Gummer's decision, saying 'the best available techniques not entailing excessive cost' were being used at the plant to remove the unpleasant smells.

The hearing continues.

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