Dairy Crest Limited has applied to the Environment Agency to vary its permit in order to facilitate increased production at its creamery in Camelford, Cornwall.

Davidstow Creamery is the UK’s largest dairy processing facility and one of the largest manufacturing sites in Europe, producing products such as Davidstow Cheddar and Cathedral City.

Dairy Crest, owned by Saputo Dairy UK, wants to increase cheese production capacity at the creamery from 9.6t/hr to 11.4t/hr.

Several operational updates and improvements are also included in its application, the majority of which relate to the nearby effluent treatment plant.

In order to be granted a permit variation it must demonstrate that it is putting in place necessary measures to protect people and the environment – which it has detailed in documents accompanying the application.

To coincide with this application the Environment Agency has itself applied for a permit variation to review the limits and parameters associated with the current discharge of wastewater.

“We will ensure these sufficiently protect the River Inny,” it said.

It has also launched a public consultation on these two permits, which can be completed online, by the closing date of June 27.

Following this consultation, if the agency thinks it may grant the permit variations, it will consult once more before reaching a final decision on each permit variation.

Davidstow Creamery

In June of last year, Dairy Crest Limited was fined £1.52 million for environmental offences at Davidstow Creamery dating back to 2016.

This is the largest fine ever awarded for an Environment Agency conviction in the South West.

The offences included:

  • Releasing a harmful biocide, used to clean the wastewater tanks and pipework, into the river and killing thousands of fish over a 2km stretch on August 16, 2016;
  • Coating the River Inny with a noxious, black sludge for 5km in 2018, through a release of a mass of suspended solids in July and August 2018;
  • Consistently exceeding limits on substances like phosphorous and suspended solids entering the River Inny, from 2016 up to 2021;
  • Numerous leaks of part-treated effluent into nearby watercourses and onto the land.
  • Foul odours repeatedly affecting residents over many years;
  • Failing to tell the Environment Agency within 24 hours of when things had gone significantly wrong on site, on seven separate occasions.

“The environmental performance of Dairy Crest Limited has been unacceptable for too long and needs to significantly improve,” the Environment Agency said at the time.

Dairy Crest, which pleaded guilty to the majority of the offences during the court hearing in September 2021, issued a statement expressing its “sincerest apologies to those who have been affected” after the fine was issued in June 2022.

“Considerable work has been undertaken to rectify the historic issues to which the prosecution related,” it added.