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Mystery smell in Sittingbourne town centre revealed

By John Nurden

Residents bombarded a national emergency hotline fearing there had been a major gas leak as the nasty niff embraced the town from Chalkwell Road and Milton High Street to West Street and Park Road.

Police and health officials were also alerted.

The smell made many residents fear there had been a major gas leak

The smell made many residents fear there had been a major gas leak

Sittingbourne resident Georgina Cooke complained: “I live in William street and could smell gas really badly outside my house.”

Others also reported smelling gas.

But a spokesman for SGN, formerly Southern Gas Networks, insisted the stench was nothing to do with it.

She said: “We’ve had a number of calls in the past few days about a smell over Sittingbourne but there is nothing to suggest it is coming from our network.”

People’s theories for the origin of the stench included annual nasal invaders such as the whiff from farmers’ muck spreading to the pungent Milton Creek.

But the source of the smell was finally tracked down to the former Bowaters and M-Real paper mill site, near Morrisons supermarket, where developer Abbey Homes is preparing to build 150 homes.

A spokesman for Swale council said: “Our environmental protection team is aware that some odorous material was unearthed on the site next to Morrisons last Wednesday.

Developer Abbey Homes is building 150 homes between Sittingbourne’s Morrisons and Charlotte Street

Developer Abbey Homes is building 150 homes between Sittingbourne’s Morrisons and Charlotte Street

“This was sampled and then covered up. But some odour was released.”

He added: “The material is associated with the operation of the old mill and is harmless.”

The material was removed from the site on Friday but the council admits more could be unearthed as the work continues.

The spokesman said: “The contractors are controlling any odours from the site with a masking agent.”

Abbey Homes, which built much of Sonora Fields, acquired the former mill site from Essential Land and put in for detailed planning permission in April.

It intends to build a mix of apartments and houses, including five classed as affordable.

A decision on its application is yet to be made by Swale council.

The plot has remained undeveloped since the demolition of the mill five years ago in 2012.

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