Dairy Crest Limited’s plans to increase cheese production at its Davidstow Creamery site in North Cornwall have been objected to by local angling groups who say they are concerned about the risk of more pollution of the River Inny.

The opposition comes after Dairy Crest owners Saputo Dairy (UK) announced plans for the expansion of Davidstow Creamery, and submitted a planning application to Cornwall Council for permission to undertake the works.

In December 2022, the company was convicted of 21 environmental offences and fined £1.52 million for multiple pollutions of the River Inny and serious fish kills between 2016 and 2021. The Environment Agency has also confirmed that it is currently investigating ongoing pollution from the Davidstow Creamery site.

The Environment Agency is now considering whether to grant a permit to allow the maker of Cathedral City cheese to increase capacity from 9.6 to 11.4 tonnes per hour. Fish Legal, representing Launceston Anglers’ Association, have argued that because of the ongoing criminal investigation, not enough information has been provided by the Environment Agency to assess the impact of increased production and discharges from the industrial facility to enable proper public responses to be made. As a result, the impact on trout, sea trout, salmon and grayling populations in the River Inny and wider Tamar catchment cannot at this time be gauged.

According to Saputo Dairy UK (Dairy Crest Limited), the creamery is supplied by over 350 farms which represent over 50% of all milk produced in Cornwall. As part of its permit application, the company has put forward options to continue discharging into the River Inny and alternative plans to build a pipeline to discharge effluent from its Davidstow Creamery into the sea.

Geoff Hardy, Fish Legal Solicitor said: “This is a company that a judge described in sentencing for previous offences as having ‘a bullying culture’ in its management. They have applied to increase production capacity in the wake of being shamed by one prosecution and possibly facing more. It beggars belief that the Environment Agency is even entertaining the idea of allowing the operator of a huge site producing the same amount of effluent as a small town with such a terrible environmental record to expand. To date, the company has shown scant regard for the environment or the concerns of local people and the proposals don’t fill us with any hope they will change their ways.”

He added: “We have suggested that the expansion plans are put on hold until all ongoing investigation and enforcement action has concluded. Only then will the public be able to comment on whether it is safe or appropriate to increase dairy processing at this site.”

Martin Harmer, Chairman of Launceston Anglers’ Association who has fishing rights on the River Inny and River Tamar, said: “As far as we are concerned, Dairy Crest is not fit to run this industrial site at current levels of production, let alone at increased capacity. Until this company is able to demonstrate competent management, permit compliance and zero pollution, the Environment Agency shouldn’t approve its expansion. To do so, would sacrifice the health of the local river and its wildlife in favour of this serial polluter.”

Saputo Dairy (UK) has previously said in its planning documents that its plans will enhance its impact on the local economy and will have no additional environmental impact. The company have been approached for comment on the opposition by Fish Legal and the Launceston Anglers Association.