The Environment Agency has launched a consultation on its revised Odour Management Guidance, covering sites regulated under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2007. The consultation closes on the 13th October.

The revised guidance contains information on how site operators should approach the issue of odour; its perception, impact and acceptability. It also outlines the approach the EA will take to enforcement of permit conditions relating to odour.

Activities that potentially give rise to substantial odour emissions – such as composting will now require Odour Management Plans approved and reviewed by the Agency – Odour Management Plans were previously voluntary in most cases.

Perhaps the key section of the document is part three which sets out what the EA regard as an unacceptable amount of odour. The guidance states “you must ensure that odour is controlled so as not to materially affect your neighbours enjoyment of their property, cause them harm or offence or reduce their legitimate use of the environment, and if problems do occur, or are likely to occur, you must take the appropriate actions to prevent or minimise them”. The guidance goes on to define ‘neighbour’ as anyone living, working, visiting or making use of public space outside the site. This is obviously capable of wide interpretation.

In July, the Agency fined Veolia Environmental Services £26,737 for breaches of its permit conditions relating to odour at its, unfortunately named, High Heavens composting facility in Buckinghamshire. The breaches occurred between June and December 2006, when the site was owned by Thames Water, and prompted more than 170 complaints of bad smells from local residents. Veolia bought the site in 2007.

DMH Stallard have acted in the past for clients who have been subject to complaints about offensive odour emanating from their operations. It is our experience that, as with any form of alleged nuisance, once the perception forms in a neighbour’s mind that a nuisance is occurring it can prove very difficult to restore confidence. It is vital therefore that complaints about odour are dealt with seriously and that any appropriate action is taken quickly.