New moves are being made to crack down on a ‘pong’ affecting a Cumbrian town.

The so-called ‘Penrith Pong’ is a long-standing issue for the town, and the subject of campaigning by Fresh Air for Penrith, a group headed by Jeff Thomson, who also chairs the Castletown Community Action Group.

Now, after talks between Mr Thomson, Westmorland and Furness Council, the Environment Agency, and the MP Neil Hudson, odour will be deemed a ‘statutory nuisance’.

The council’s environmental health team will investigate complaints about odour pollution in Penrith, the scope of which has been discussed with the EA, Dr Hudson’s office, and Fresh Air for Penrith, and will look at complaints data and reports from January to December 2023.

Is a statutory nuisance is identified, the council can take action, such as issuing abatement notices.

Mr Thomson’s campaign has been lobbying for statutory nuisance recognition.

He described the outcome as a ‘significant step forward’, and added: “It’s only by pinpointing the specific time, date, weather conditions, and strength of odour, that the agency and council can carry out their investigations fully.”

The odour is alleged to come from the Omega Proteins factory in Penrith, operated by parent group Leo Group, which has strongly denied being the primary source and said its action to protect the environment is robust and broad.

Steph Cordon, director of thriving communities at the council, said it will be investigating the ‘odour from the Omega Proteins site’ after ‘complaints from residents’.

Ms Cordon said the investigation, which is expected to finish in six months’ time, will try to find sources of odour on or off-site not covered by the EA.

Action the council can take if a statutory nuisance is identified, it can issue an abatement notice requesting the site to stop activity or limit it to certain times, Ms Cordon added.

The EA said it will continue to inspect the factory for compliance with its EA permit, under which it currently operates.

“We have been addressing matters relating to odour control directly with the company and are seeking further improvements,” an EA spokesperson said, regarding its ongoing investigation into the factory.

A spokesperson from Leo Group said the factory operates ‘within one of the most heavily regulated industries’ and added that since the acquisition of the site in 2002, it has been ‘continually investing in the site, making it the most extensively invested rendering plant in the UK, providing a valuable service to the agriculture and meat industry’.

“Multiple odour abatement processes are used on the site, exceeding current BAT (best available techniques) guidance,” they concluded.

Both the council and the EA urged residents to share concerns via its number - 0800 80 70 60, while Leo Group asked people to also share odour concerns with its own hotline - 07976 857 435.

This article was edited on April 2, 2024 to clarify that the site was acquired in 2002.