A sharp increase in the number of odour complaints in one Cumbrian town has led to a call for action from the government.

The persistent odour issue in Penrith, known locally as the ‘Penrith Pong’, has been at the forefront of issues campaigned against by former Penrith Town Council member Jeff Thomson, who is now the chair of Castletown Community Action Group for the area in western Penrith.

1367 odour pollution complaints were made to the Environment Agency from Penrith in 2023, a rise from 311 the year before.

Mr Thomson, on behalf of his campaign ‘Fresh Air for Penrith’, has called for the issue to be recognised as a statutory nuisance, which he said would enable Westmorland and Furness Council to enforce environmental regulations under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Mr Thomson said the rise in complaints is ‘ample evidence’ of an odour pollution problem.

He described the issue as a ‘nuisance with a massive impact on the way local people, and visitors to the town, lead their lives’, adding that a source for the pollution has to be formally identified and declared, investigated, and for the issue to cease.

The odour is alleged to come from the Omega Proteins factory in Penrith, operated by Leo Group, which renders animal parts to create a wide variety of products like biofuel and jet fuel.

In the meantime, Mr Thomson has called for a meeting with Westmorland and Furness Council to discuss possible action.

A spokesperson from the Environment Agency said: “Following increased reports of odours from Omega Proteins, our officers have been carrying out increased monitoring and visits of the site to determine the source of the smell and make clear that the company must take action to address any issues which could be leading to this.”

However, a Leo Group spokesperson said the complaints are ‘reported’ and not ‘substantiated’, adding that this distinction is ‘always overlooked’.

“As every complaint that is reported to us by the Environment Agency is also investigated by us and our findings are passed back to the Environment Agency, who also perform their own offsite checks, we can say with certainty that a significant amount of these complaints are not substantiated to Omega Proteins,” they said.

The factory said it plays a ‘crucial role in the agriculture and meat industry’ and said the company suffers from ‘prejudice of some non-meat-eaters’ confronting them with 'unfounded accusations'.

They concluded by encouraging people to also contact their odour hotline at 07976857435 to identify the source of odour ‘in real time’.

They said that ‘odour checkers’ are trained to identify the source and data is collected on the duration and times that the odour is detected.

Westmorland and Furness Council was approached for a comment.