‘Rotting cabbage and nauseating meat broth’ among smells from Harborough factory, Parliament hears
A Government minister has urged Harborough District Council to take action over horrible smells coming from a factory.
Environment minister Richard Benyon said the authority needs to address the concerns of people living near JG Pears on the town’s northern outskirts.
It came during a Parliamentary debate on the issue, raised by Harborough MP Sir Edward Garnier in response to residents’ complaints over ‘horrific’ smells coming from the animal rendering plant
Sir Edward told the debate, recorded in full in Hansard, how residents complaints had met a ‘stone wall of complacency’ by both the council and JG Pears.
Residents had described smells including ‘rotting cabbage’, ‘dirty bone meal’ and nauseating meat broth’ coming from the plant, he said.
He said residents living near the plant had been filling in record logs for two years, describing when smells had occured and their extent but the problems persist.
Slurry in a nearby ditch which appeared to look like chicken fat had also been found, said Sir Edward.
Sir Edward told Parliament: “Exasperated at the lack of action by the council, my constituents got in touch with me. I contacted the local authority’s environmental health team last October and persuaded them to see me.
“I also asked them to meet one of my constituents, Mary Morgan, who is a spokesman for the campaigning group, and they reluctantly agreed.
“Mary Morgan made a compelling and rational case at that meeting. The more I have learned about this matter, the more convinced I have become that the complainants have a case that needs not just to be taken seriously by the council and the company, but acted on.
“I appreciate that my hon. Friend the Minister cannot answer these questions, but why does the council not take seriously the years of evidence presented to it and why does it continue to deny that there is a problem?
“If, as the council contends, the company is operating within the terms of its licence, why does it not look again at the terms of that licence to measure their effectiveness against the evidence of the public nuisance that clearly exists? Why has the council asked residents to go to the trouble of filling out diary sheets if it then says that it cannot rely on the information contained in them because the company’s licence requires the odours and other problems to be witnessed by an environmental health officer?
“I understand that when the only officer to have been on the site was asked if he understood the company’s processes, he replied that he did not have to. I disagree.
“He has a professional obligation to know what he is looking at and for. Why are my constituents’ photographs of the billowing black smoke and the contaminated watercourses - available on Facebook, but sadly not reproducible in Hansard - rejected as evidence?
“An Environment Agency inspector has identified unacceptably high levels of effluent from the site in watercourses on neighbouring farmland.
“The company’s licence permits it to spray its effluent fluids on to a small piece of land it owns, but it does not require much imagination to see the consequences of that.
“The effluent drains from that land straight into the ditches on the next-door farm, as confirmed this morning, and ultimately into the River Welland, which the agency is trying to restore.
“My constituents have had to suffer smoke, stench and noise—an appalling combination of disturbances that has been allowed to continue for some time. Now, through me, my constituents say they have had enough - enough nuisance and enough inactivity.”
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Richard Benyon shared information provided him by Harborough District Council which said council officers undertook a total of 64 visits to the site between January and November 2012, some in the company of the complainants’ representatives.
Between January and April 2012, an offensive odour was found on one of the 30 visits, he said.
Between September and November, the period covered by the second report, an offensive odour was found on one of the 34 visits.
However he added: “I recognise his [Sir Edward’s] point that this is a matter over which the local authority has control: it has to address the clearly genuine concerns of local people.
“These are not the kind of vexatious claims that one might hear from an individual who may object to a particular type of business for the wrong reasons.
“This is a consistent concern for a large proportion of those who live nearby, and is therefore something that the local authority needs to address.
“He and I are in a business where perceptions are reality. If that is the perception, then it needs to be addressed as a reality by the local authority.”
The council said in a statement this morning: ““Harborough District Council has received complaints about emissions from the J G Pears plant in Market Harborough, and Environmental Health Officers have conducted thorough investigations into the issues raised.
“This type of business is controlled under specific legislation which requires the operator to meet prescribed standards aimed at controlling emissions.
“The Council’s investigations have shown that the standards are being fully complied with and therefore there is no basis for the Council to take any action against the company at this time.
“We are aware of the parliamentary debate and there was no new information supplied which could affect the outcome of the comprehensive investigations that have taken place.
“Whilst we appreciate the concerns of the local residents it is important to stress that the permit conditions have not been breached and the Council will continue to monitor the activities in accordance with national guidelines”.
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Weather for Market Harborough
Tuesday 21 May 2013
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