Norfolk poultry firm Banham Poultry (2018) Ltd has been fined £300,000 for failing to stop odour pollution from its processing plant near Attleborough.
A court heard the Environment Agency received nearly 350 complaints from local people and businesses in the area surrounding the site in Attleborough between 2019 and 2021.
District judge Andrew King heard the abattoir had broken or damaged doors and walls, a roof so weak it collapsed, and another part of the site unsafe for Environment Agency staff to enter. He acknowledged practices at Banham Poultry had a ‘significant effect on quality of life’ for nearby residents due to the odour.
Banham Poultry is now under new management, having been bought last autumn by the private office of 2 Sisters founder Ranjit Boparan.
The Environment Agency warned the company to act after nine complaints about the slaughterhouse were made early in 2019, coinciding with waste blood kept on site too long.
Believing the company had breached its permit for managing smells, investigators gave Banham Poultry an enforcement notice to limit or prevent odours leaving the boundary of the abattoir.
Sophie Cousins, who led the investigation into the abattoir for the Environment Agency, said: “Banham Poultry failed to invest in odour-prevention. People living and working nearby were badly affected over a long period of time.
“The Environment Agency decided on prosecution after Banham missed many chances to comply with the law. We gave them time and assistance to put matters right, but the problems just mounted up.”
The site’s odour management plan, meant to control the effect of work on the community, was ‘ripped up’, according to one employee. Another member of staff wrote in an e-mail in 2019 they were ‘embarrassed…’ and couldn’t defend the company’s poor management of the site, adding ‘we stink’.
District judge King said in court: “The Environment Agency was seeking to work with Banham Poultry… far and beyond what was required of them as a regulator. Investigators sought to solve problems, providing training to various levels of management, seemingly to no avail.
“Investigators went out of their way to make sure Banham followed the right procedures, for example, creating a spreadsheet detailing what needed to be done, but when the complaints kept coming in, legal action was the only outcome.”
The court heard foul-smelling air escaped through damaged and open doors. Watery blood from poultry collected on the abattoir floor, prevented from draining away because of blocked drains.
Other parts of the building were badly corroded and beyond repair. Part of the site collapsed in May 2020 when the roof caved in. Structural weaknesses saw another roof blow off in a storm. Repairs that were done were said to be ‘shabby’.
Staff lacked the relevant training in environmental issues, so were unable to deal with the abattoir’s many problems, described by the agency as ‘chronic’.
The Environment Agency recorded odours 86 times outside the abattoir from the start of 2019 to September last year, ranging from faint to very strong – all of which came from the abattoir.
The company pleaded guilty to failing to keep activities free from odour levels likely to cause pollution outside the abattoir between January 2019 and September 2021.
Banham also admitted not complying with an enforcement notice served on it by the Environment Agency that set out steps they should have taken to limit or prevent odours leaving the site.
District judge King ruled the offences as reckless culpability. He fined Banham Poultry (2018) Ltd, of Station Road, Attleborough, £300,000 for breaching regulation 38 (2) of the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2016. He imposed no separate penalty for a breach of regulation 38 (3) – not complying with the enforcement notice.
The hearing at Chelmsford magistrates’ court on 15 September 2022 also ordered Banham Poultry to pay £67,621.45 in costs and a victim surcharge of £170.
In a statement, a spokesman for Ranjit Boparan said: “Banham Poultry notes the regrettable historic environmental breaches under the previous owner in relation to odour originating from its site in Attleborough.
“Since being taken over in October 2021, the new management team have shown a commitment to being a good neighbour and are keen to play a positive role in the local community, and has the full support of the Environment Agency.
“Banham will continue to work very hard to eliminate these issues in the future.
“A planning application has already been submitted for Station Road which will significantly improve the site, and we will continue to have positive dialogue with local residents and the regulator.”