“Pong” plant petitionhanded over

Date: Friday 25th September 2020

EDEN Council cannot reject planning applications from the operators of Penrith’s Omega Proteins plant on the grounds it has continued to emit foul odours, a campaign group has been told.

At an online meeting of the council on Thursday, the the Fresh Air for Penrith group’s Jeff Thomson presented a petition, signed he said by more than 1,150 people, that the authority should “‘stop approving planning applications from Omega Proteins who are polluting the air with disgusting, nasty, sickening, obnoxious, smells”.

The council was discussing the proposal because it is obliged by its procedural rules to debate any petition with more than 500 signatures.

Mr Thomson said councillors had been “ignoring the views and interests of local residents” by continuing to grant planning applications relating to the site — which he described as an industrial-scale animal rendering plant — from its owner, the Leo Group.

He alleged that powers to approve major planning applications for the Omega plant had been delegated to council officers, rather than debated by members, and claimed the site dealt with animal waste material transported there from hundreds of miles away, but not from local farms.

He also spoke of criticism of operating procedures on the site from the Environment Agency, which described the number of complaints it had received about odour from the plant as “unacceptable” — a word he said had also been used by Penrith and the Border MP Dr Neil Hudson.

He added that Omega could not be allowed by the council to expand any further but “must be controlled”.

Several councillors expressed sympathy for Mr Thomson’s views, but pointed out the authority had to decide planning applications on their merits, not the history of applicants.

Planning committee chairman William Patterson (Ind, Warcop) said it would be wrong of the council to decide in advance to reject planning applications from anybody, and that major issues were always discussed by the committee.

Council leader Virginia Taylor (Lib Dem, Penrith) said she and other councillors always “kept an eye” on Omega, but that they could not reject planning applications unless there was a material reason to do so, while John Thompson (Con, Penrith) said planning committee members had to follow evidence and the law. “We can’t predetermine applications,” he added.

There was no vote on the petition, since it was a matter for debate rather than a substantial motion.