Mother 'heartbroken' after regulator wins Staffordshire landfill site appeal

A mother says she is "heartbroken" after a regulator won a legal challenge over a Staffordshire landfill site she accused of emitting noxious gases that risk shortening her son's life.Rebecca Currie, who lives near Walleys Quarry in Silverdale, Newcastle-under-Lyme, took legal action against the Environment Agency on behalf of five-year-old Mathew Richards due to concerns over his health.Lawyers representing Mathew said there is a "public health emergency" in the vicinity of the quarry, arguing that hydrogen sulphide emissions are affecting "hundreds and probably thousands of local people".The High Court was told in August that Mathew is a vulnerable child, born prematurely at 26 weeks with a chronic lung disease and he needed oxygen support for 19 months.In September, Mr Justice Fordham made a declaration that the Environment Agency (EA) "must implement" Public Health England's advice to reduce concentrations of hydrogen sulphide in the local area to one part per billion, less than an eighth of the level that can be smelled, by January 2022.But the EA challenged the ruling, with senior judges saying they allowed its appeal on Friday, with written reasons to come at a later date.Mathew's solicitor, Rebekah Carrier, said they "anticipate asking the Supreme Court to deal with this case as a matter of urgency".Ms Currie said: "I am heartbroken by the decision and do not understand why our own government bodies are not protecting us from poisonous gases."Our village continues to stink and suffer, and my little boy still struggles to breathe. Hearing him cry 'Mummy, mummy, I can't breathe' motivates me to do everything I can to fight for his health."

Rebecca Currie speaking to ITV News Central in August 2021.

Ms Carrier said: "We are obviously very disappointed by the Court of Appeal's decision and await their full reasons."However, this case concerns a little boy's right to life and this is a case where the agency, charged with the protection of public health, should be held to account by the courts."In its Court of Appeal challenge the EA argued this was not a case where any court intervention was "justified or appropriate" and claimed there was evidence that it was taking measures to respond to Public Health England (now the UK Health Security Agency) recommendations.An EA spokesman said after Friday's ruling that it had required the site operator to make "substantial changes" and that it was "determined" to protect the local community.He added: "Following our interventions there has been a clear downward trend in hydrogen sulphide levels recorded at our air quality monitoring stations in recent months, with most sites showing concentrations below the WHO (World Health Organisation) annoyance threshold most of the time - and three of our four monitoring sites showing concentrations are now below the long-term (lifetime) health-based guidance value."These improvements do not diminish in any way our continued focus on bringing those emissions under control and ensuring they remain so."Welcoming the ruling, a spokesman for Walleys Quarry Ltd said: "We have worked tirelessly from the outset with the EA in proposing to them and subsequently funding viable and innovative solutions to any genuine issues around the site."We remain committed to working with the EA, continuing to lead on proposing solutions and play our active role in resolving any issues to the satisfaction of all parties."