Furore over Suffolk stench

A VET who lives and works in Woolpit has told a public inquiry of the stench from whiff farmer John Clarke's farm blighting villagers lives for 20 years.

A VET who lives and works in Woolpit has told a public inquiry of the stench from whiff farmer John Clarke's farm blighting villagers lives for 20 years.

Kenneth Sibley, a senior manager based with a company on the Woolpit Business Park which supplies pharmaceuticals to vetinary surgeons and farmers, told how the smells can make people want to vomit.

His comments come as Mr Clarke is seeking to overturn a Mid Suffolk District Council decision stopping him using existing cooking machinery for rendering at his Rookery Farm in Drinkstone, near Bury St Edmunds.

To run the rendering operation to create fertilizer Mr Clarke needs planning permission, as no pigs are fed swill and the council felt this was an industrial activity unsuited to the countryside.

Councillors refused him planning permission and Mr Clarke appealed against the decision, leaving it to a planning inspector to decide after hearing evidence during the inquiry at the authority's Needham Market chambers.

The farm has been linked for years to the so called 'Woolpit whiff,' which villagers' claim has blighted their lives, and Mr Clarke who at one time had 8,000 pigs. From 2000 though, he has kept no pigs at the farm and has told how the pig industry has collapsed and he must diversify.

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During day three of the inquiry yesterday Mr Sibley said the council had said seven years ago that the smell problem was being resolved.

He said: "Locally villagers have been plagued by the stench from dubious activities on Rookery Farm for 20 years now.

"We have had odours three times this week. We now get a stench from rotting poultry, it's frankly indescribable.

"Today there is a smell in the village and we are getting it on the business park at least once or twice a week, together with a snow storm of feathers every so often. I even got feathers stuck on my car the other day."

Stephen Rhodes, an environmental expert witness appearing for Mr Clarke, said the level of complaints had dropped considerably since the farm had ceased having pigs at the site.

He conceded that the site could be managed better to reduce odours, but said it was not rotting poultry that caused whiffs but rather cooked material and some spillages.

John Rowland, a highways and traffic expert witness appearing for Mr Clarke, insisted that the roads locally were quite acceptable for lorries travelling to and from the farm, despite concerns about the narrow country road network being unsuitable.

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