Saputo Plans To Clean Up Its Davidstow Act

I have just returned from a meeting between numerous residents of Davidstow Parish and representatives of Saputo Dairy UK, the Environment Agency and the Davidstow Parish Council. The meeting was chaired by Rob Rotchell, the current Mayor of Camelford, and despite Rob’s best efforts it became quite heated at times!

For the benefit of new readers I should perhaps point out that last summer a UK Government press release stated that:

Dairy Crest Limited, owned by Saputo Dairy UK, and its management of the Davidstow Creamery near Camelford, north Cornwall, has been falling way short of the standards expected by the Environment Agency when it comes to the company’s management of liquid waste, odour and environmental reporting…

Dairy Crest, which produces brands such as Cathedral City at its Davidstow plant, previously pleaded guilty to 21 of 27 charges brought by the Environment Agency. For committing this catalogue of offences, the firm was fined £1.52 million at the crown court on 23 June 2022.

Here’s one of my relatively recent pictures of Davidstow Creamery, so that you can get an idea of the size of their local operation:

According to the Environment Agency representatives at the meeting, Saputo’s “subsistence charges for waste activities and installations” are still in “Band F”, which is the lowest of the low. According to another part of the UK Government web site that means Saputo “must significantly improve in order to achieve permit compliance. These sites are more likely to have their permit revoked unless there is substantial evidence that they are working towards achieving compliance in a timely manner.”

The EA pointed out that the water quality issues in the River Inny mentioned during the court case have improved over recent months, but “noise and odour” issues are not yet resolved. According to Saputo they have developed an “Action Plan” to remedy the remaining problems, and the EA stated that they have concluded the action plan provides credible evidence that Saputo are indeed “working towards achieving compliance in a timely manner.”

There were several comments from the floor to the effect that “isn’t seven years long enough?” etc., but by the time Rob adjourned the meeting there seemed to be a rather reluctant consensus that the effects of Saputo’s plan to achieve compliance with their environmental permit should be assessed once again in November. That’s 2023 in case you’re wondering.

I did ask if I could publish details of Saputo’s “data driven” Action Plan as part of this article, but I think the answer was “no”. During the meeting the Saputo representatives pointed out that they had recently installed some continuous monitoring equipment around their waste water treatment plant at Davidstow. I also asked if they would be passing that data on to the Environment Agency, and whether they (or we!) might be able to publish near real time updates of such data in the near future on our respective web sites. I think the answer was “no” once again.

[Edit – January 30th]

Having dropped my car off at Davidstow Garage for its annual MoT test I decided to cycle home using the scenic route past the Saputo creamery, where I couldn’t help but notice that the view had changed since last week:

Now I cannot help but wonder why Saputo have suddenly installed all that shiny new Heras fencing (AKA Harris fencing)? It’s only been erected outside the main plant, and not at the entrance to the nearby waste water treatment plant:

[Edit – February 20th]

Following January’s meeting I have now received a statement from the Environment Agency, which reads as follows:

The Environment Agency is aware that there continues to be unacceptable impacts from the Davidstow Creamery waste-water processing facility on local people and the environment.  We are requiring the operator, Dairy Crest Limited (owned by Saputo Dairy UK) to take steps to prevent or minimise these impacts now and in future.  In 2022, we prosecuted the operator for offending between 2016 and 2020, including for causing odour pollution, and have ongoing investigations into offending from 2021 and 2022. We will continue to monitor off-site impacts of this facility against their environmental permit, assess and where necessary respond to reports of pollution, use our regulatory powers to ensure the operator delivers the planned improvements as quickly as possible, and keep the affected communities updated on these matters.

The EA also provided a more comprehensive briefing document, which you can download here. In part it states that:

The Environment Agency regulate a number of operations undertaken by Saputo Dairy UK at Davidstow Creamery under environmental permits.

Environment Agency officers regularly visit the site and surrounding area to undertake site inspections and investigate reports of environmental impacts. These include responding to reports of odour and noise as well as closely monitoring the condition of the River Inny. We are in regular contact with the operator at the site.

We have substantiated a number of odour and noise pollution events during 2022 and so far in 2023. We recognise this as a serious ongoing issue for those affected…

Our Environment Agency Area Director (Mark Rice) and I (Jay Rowntree) attended a recent meeting held by members of the local community. We listened to the concerns of those local residents and outlined our own regulatory position and our expectations of the operator. We recognise the frustration regarding these ongoing issues. We heard the commitments from the operator to expedite improvement plans and to keep the community fully updated through established communication channels and Parish Council representatives.

The Operator continues to tackle water quality performance issues and has remained largely compliant with their water quality permit limits between June 2022 and January 2023. Several improvement projects at the waste-water processing facility (WPF) remain in progress due to difficulties with sourcing specialist parts.

Our monitoring equipment has remained in place in the River Inny and continues to provide live water quality data at several locations upstream and downstream of the WPF’s discharge to the river. We remain concerned about the ecology of the river and the effect the discharge is having, particularly during periods of very low flow…

We continue our work to review the site’s current environmental permit. This is to ensure the permit provides sufficient protection to the River Inny and to ensure the operator is managing operations on site to appropriate standards. We are investing considerable time and effort in this work. It is not a quick process but is predicted to be completed later in 2023. If any changes to the permit are deemed necessary, these will be subject to a public consultation.

The Operator’s own application for a permit variation includes changes that would enable an increase in cheese production from 9.6 t/hr to 11.4 t/hr. We have just begun assessing that application and it will also be subject to a public consultation…

Contacting us

If you have any questions regarding our action in response to this or any other site we regulate across Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, please contact us at:

email hidden; JavaScript is required.

If you wish to report an environmental incident, please use the Environment Agency’s dedicated 24-hour environment incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.

Let’s hope that from now on the creamery’s waste-water processing facility remains fully compliant with its water quality permit limits.

Meanwhile the odour pollution events continue, as we discovered for ourselves during a stroll along the sunken lane past Treworra Barton last week.

I cannot help but think that local residents will have some things to say as and when there is a public consultation regarding a “permit variation includ[ing] changes that would enable an increase in cheese production“!

[Edit – March 2nd]

My cycle ride this afternoon involved cycling past the Saputo creamery. As I was passing it my nostrils detected THE all too familiar smell on the northerly breeze. Rerouting my journey back towards the Inny Valley via the sunken lane past Treworra, this is what I saw:

Moving pictures of the work going on at the Saputo waste water treatment plant to follow.

Watch this space!

5 Replies to “Saputo Plans To Clean Up Its Davidstow Act”

  1. As luck would have it I was cycling down the hill from Trewassa to the electricity substation near the church when an all too familiar odour arrived on the easterly wind:

    I duly reported it to the Environment Agency’s hotline. 0800 807060 in case you are wondering.

  2. This is probably going to take up several articles by the time the excitement has died down. However let’s get started.

    As you can see above, I idly tagged Lisa Letcher from Cornwall Live in a “tweet” at the start of this month. This morning I received a phone call from ITV News asking if they could pop round to interview me.

    Apparently Grace Pascoe saw this long before I did!

  3. Here at we have a (very!) limited marketing budget. However in these difficult and turbulent times we have cracked open our piggy bank and are now offering the grand prize of a packet of peanuts to the first reader who can spot the difference between the BBC and Yahoo! Canada versions of the story above!

    The first clue has just been revealed over on Twitter:

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