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Romney Marsh: 'Acidic burning smell of manure in Greatstone and Littlestone is affecting our lives'

By Sean Axtell

An ‘acidic burning’ smell of manure is affecting the quality of residents’ lives, forcing them to shut windows and doors and complain to environmental health.

The stench descended on Greatstone and Littlestone in Romney Marsh this week, after farmers treated their fields nearby.

It comes as a similar odour forced visitors to leave the marsh when farmers used poultry manure this time last year.

Dunes Road - Google
Dunes Road - Google

Susie Govett, Shepway district councillor for the marsh, said: “It’s shocking this year, my property backs onto the field.

“I’m used to country smells, but this really is something else.

“The smell clings to your clothes, your children, your pets, it really does affect your quality of life.”

Dave Arundell, from Greatstone, said he had to keep his doors and windows shut for the whole of Thursday.

He said: “It’s upsetting because last year the council said they were going to be really strict and proper procedures would be carried out.

“That’s not happening I assume.”

He said he’d contacted the council who would be sending out environmental health officers to investigate.

Meanwhile floods of people took to social media networking site Facebook to complain about the stench.

Rumours swirled over whether farmers were using human manure, which is legal in the UK or poultry manure.

Cllr Susie Govett
Cllr Susie Govett

A spokesman for the New Romney Caravan Park said customers were yet to complain, but urged farmers to turn to alternative methods of fertilising their soil.

She added: “Luckily it came at the end of the summer holidays, holidaymakers have complained in the past.

“The smell is vinegary and nostril burning, you can taste it.”

A Shepway District Council spokesman said: “Our environmental protection team visits farmers across Shepway every year to monitor their compliance with the best practice guidance on muck-spreading from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

“This requires the muck to be incorporated into the soil within 48 hours of spreading, which helps reduce the impact of the smell.

“The smell will go in time but its rate of dispersal is dependent on the weather.”

Muck spreading has been blamed for the smell
Muck spreading has been blamed for the smell

Farmers have hit back over the complaints by saying manure spreading is “completely legitimate”.

Isobel Bretherton,spokesman for the National Farmer Union South East, said:” Remember that farmers are producing our food and growing food for livestock.

“Adding manure, compost or treated sludge builds soil structure and fertility – in the majority of cases the matter will be incorporated or ploughed into the soil.

“It’s a perfectly legitimate activity for farmers to spread manure and other organic matter at this time of year to fertilise fields before further cultivation/sowing of crops.

“What is offensive to one person may not be to another.”

She explained local authorities accept there may be a “certain degree of odour”, but environmental health will step in if it is thought to be a statutory nuisance.

She added in accordance with Defra guidelines: “The ploughing of manure should take place within 24 hours of it being spread and farmers should consider weather conditions.”

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