Major dairy company handed £1.52 million fine after pollution incidents in Cornwall

Credit: Environment Agency

A major dairy company that makes Cathedral City cheese has been handed a £1.52 million fine after it admitted causing pollution incidents in Cornwall.

In September 2021 Dairy Crest Ltd pleaded guilty to 21 charges which included pollution and odour incidents, and permit breaches at its Davidstow plant.

Some of the breaches led to fish kills in the Upper River Inny near Camelford in 2016 and 2018.

A sentencing hearing at Truro Crown Court was today told that in 2014 Dairy Crest Ltd had decided to expand production facilities at the site. It had brought in specialist contractors and such a facility had never been constructed in the UK.

However, once operational it had become apparent that there were ‘’significant problems’’ with the effluent levels being discharged into the River Inny.

Credit: Environment Agency

Judge Simon Carr told the court that ‘’the defendants took the decision to keep operating despite being aware there was a breach of the permits in place.’’

He also described how there had been an odour issue affecting neighbours. ‘’It’s obvious the issue over many years blighted the lives of people living nearby.’’

The court heard that Dairy Crest Ltd had a recent annual turnover of £451 million and its profit was given as £21 million a year after tax. 

In sentencing Judge Carr said the combined fine of £1.52 million reflected the size of the organisation.

The company has also already paid £272,746 in court costs.

The Environment Agency which brought the case to court, said Dairy Crest had been handed the largest ever fine for an Environment Agency conviction in the South West.

Dairy Crest Ltd’s parent company Saputo Dairy UK Ltd today released a statement apologising for the breaches.

"Once again, the Company would like to express its sincere apologies to those who have been affected. Considerable work has been undertaken to rectify the historic issues to which the prosecution related. The company continues to invest significant resources in the best technology, processes and people to further improve its environmental performance and minimise its impact on the local community.

"As the largest employer in North Cornwall, the company remains committed to supporting its local communities and becoming a better neighbour."