A smell which has been plaguing locals across Newton Aycliffe, Brafferton and Darlington came under scrutiny at a public meeting held last week which was attended by the Environment Agency.

Brafferton Village Hall hosted around 35 people and an Environment Agency representative on Wednesday (January 10) to discuss a strong sulphur-like smell identified as being from Ashcourt's landfill site.

Ashcourt first acquired the site in July 2023, which was formerly operated by the John Wade Group, and an investigation in 2023 concluded the smell comprised of methane, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphite seeping out of the gas pods present on its landfill site.

The Northern Echo: Ashcourt, Newton Aycliffe.Ashcourt, Newton Aycliffe. (Image: PR)

The group have pledged to make improvements to dissipate the smell but after a "particularly bad" weekend of the scent, an impromptu meeting was organised by Brafferton residents including Stuart Hodgson.

He said: "One weekend, it got so bad that if you went outside you would instantly feel sick. It is just a pungent smell. 

"It stank from Friday night until Monday morning, and it was just rancid, and that was part of the motivation for the meeting.

"You can't go outside - it gets into your house at night and you cannot sleep because the smell wakes you up. We cannot open windows because it's everywhere."

Meetings held between Ashcourt bosses and Sedgefield MP Paul Howell last year resolved that the smell should be resolved by January 21.

A spokesperson for Ashcourt, David Glover said in December: "We are keen to be a good neighbour and to bring a benefit to the local community. 

"We have experienced some issues on site and are working hard to improve the infrastructure. 

"We are in regular communication with the Environment Agency and hope to have this matter resolved very soon."

However, Stuart claims the smell is getting worse despite promised improvements set to take affect this month.

He said: "It is absolutely getting worse but we are all really hopeful that it will go away by January 21. But, even if it does go away we need answers.

"It's not good enough for it to go away because it has caused many problems with mental health - I have had my sleep disrupted for weeks as the smell of it wakes you up.

"You smell it outside, you smell it going to bed, even when you go outside and come back in your clothes smell of it so you have to wash them.

"They say that 'we are doing all we can' but sometimes, and in this case, what they are doing is not good enough."

Following the meeting, a spokesperson for the Environment Agency said:“We continue to assess the work being carried out by the operator to improve odour management on the site.

"We are expecting completion of some temporary capping works later this month and we’ll be on site to check progress.

"We will update the community and partners further following the completion of this work.”

Despite further theories circulated on social media that the smell was omitted from the Emerald Biogas plant in Newton Aycliffe, a spokesperson for the plant stated they have not received any direct complaints about odours.

They said: "As an organic waste treatment business, providing essential services to the community, we take all complaints very seriously.

"Odour is an aspect of our operations that we manage stringently. We are regulated by the Environment Agency under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2016 and comply with requirements to manage odours.

"In line with these requirements, we have numerous controls in place including odour abatement on waste storage buildings and processes,  management system processes for monitoring of odours, and procedures for recording and investigating complaints.


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"We are currently not experiencing any issues on site and have not received any odour complaints directly.

"We are aware that there has been an increase in odour complaints from the local community over recent months. There are several other odour sources in the area including a sewage treatment works and the landfill site close to the village of Brafferton. The odour from the latter has been well documented and the Environment Agency have been working with the site to resolve the issue.

"We continue to work diligently with the Environment Agency to ensure that we minimise the effect our operations have on the local community."