Farmer loses ruling over Woolpit Whiff

A COUNCIL has won a High Court challenge to a Government decision over the Woolpit whiff.

A COUNCIL has won a High Court challenge to a Government decision over the Woolpit whiff.

In February 2006, Mid-Suffolk District Council won a High Court injunction against farm-owner John Clarke barring animal rendering activities, which often lead to complaints about bad smells, on parts of Rookery Farm, Woolpit Road, Drinkstone.

But earlier this year, a Government planning inspector granted Mr Clarke a Certificate of Lawful Use for mixed industrial and agricultural activities on part of the farm, including the land covered by the injunction, effectively clearing the way for animal rendering to continue at the farm.

Now, though, the council has won a ruling from High Court judge Mr Justice Mitting that that decision should not stand.

The judge quashed the Certificate, and ordered the country's planning supremo, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government John Denham to have the matter reconsidered.

He ruled that the judge who granted the injunction, Mr Justice Newman, had decided that the lawful use was for the cooking plant buildings used for rendering, as permitted by a 1999 planning permission.

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As a result, he said, the inspector couldn't find that a different use was lawful on the subsequent application for a lawful use certificate, in the absence of any argument by the parties that he should re-open the judge's decision on the planning permission or that that decision was wrong.

Although Mr Clarke no longer keeps pigs at the farm, he carries out animal rendering, which involves the cooking of animal waste from chickens and pig's blood, which is then used for tallow or fertiliser.

This process has given rise to complaints against the smell, which led the council to seek and secure the injunction.

However, the inspector who subsequently granted a certificate of lawful use concluded that the land had been used for mixed industrial and agricultural uses for a continuous period of more than 10 years, and so was immune from planning control.

The council argued successfully that the inspector was wrong to do so in the light of the 2006 High Court ruling that there was a breach of planning control that justified the grant of an injunction.

It said that the judge, Mr Justice Newman, made a final determination of the use of the land and its lawfulness, and that the inspector was wrong to go behind that conclusion.