An animal fat rendering company was recently found guilty in October of several breaches of an odour boundary condition in its environmental permit, in contravention of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010.

Where there is an odour boundary condition, the operator must prevent offensive odour escaping across the boundary of its site, other than in highly unusual circumstances. In this case, odour escaped and nearby residents complained of a persistent smell like "decomposing flesh".

It is an offence for a person to fail to comply with an environmental permit condition under Regulation 38(2) of the Environmental Permitting Regulations. The maximum fine on a summary conviction is £50,000 for each offence.

In this case, the magistrate's court fined the company £120,000 and ordered the company to pay compensation of £250 to each of a number of affected residents and costs of £66,150. This is reported to be the largest fine to date imposed on an operator under the Environmental Permitting regime.

This case is worth noting because once the relevant provisions of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 comes into force, magistrates’ courts will be given the power, in some cases, to remove or amend the caps set out in the relevant legislation. Operators may therefore wish to reconsider their approach to any offences that up until now may have been treated as relatively minor because of the low maximum fines.