They are calling it the 'Stow Bedon stink'.

Villagers say that smells from a huge pig farm nearby are making their lives a misery.

Locals have complained of hazy clouds with a foul, ammonia stench rising above Cherry Tree Farm and then drifting over their homes.

They say they are sometimes unable to sit in their gardens and claim their food often tastes of urine.

Eastern Daily Press: The Stow Bedon village signThe Stow Bedon village sign (Image: Newsquest)

Villagers claim their health is suffering as a result, with some reporting throat irritations.

However, the farm insists it is operating in accordance with regulations and has been liaising closely with the Environment Agency and local council to address concerns.

It says it has carried out a series of changes to try to minimise its impact. 

And some villagers claim the issues are being overstated and that such smells ought to be expected in the countryside.

Eastern Daily Press: The CherryTree Farm in Stow Bedon has been at the centre of a planning rowThe CherryTree Farm in Stow Bedon has been at the centre of a planning row (Image: Owen Sennitt)


Cherry Tree Farm, which is a few hundred metres from the nearest homes, is operated by food giant Cranswick.

It expanded significantly in 2019 after it was granted permission to change its stock from 600 sows and their piglets to 7,000 fully-grown pigs.

The company insists it is operating within the parameters of its permit and that it is committed to ensuring it continues to be a sustainable, modern farm delivering much-needed local food and providing employment.

But villagers say that the odour problems have increased significantly in recent years.

The smell is from ammonia, a pungent gas that comes from manure and urine, which can be emitted at high levels at intensive livestock farms.

It does not remain in the environment for long, as it rapidly reacts to form ammonia compounds. However, it has a strong acidic smell and can cause irritation to the eyes, nose and throat. Eastern Daily Press: Ammonia can come from manure and urine from livestockAmmonia can come from manure and urine from livestock (Image: Matthew Usher)

Since 2021 - when the site became operational - 380 complaints have also been made to the Environment Agency (EA) about the smell from Cherry Tree Farm.

The EA started investigating and found 12 occasions when the farm was in breach of its permit.

It also issued an enforcement notice requiring the operation to reduce its ammonia emissions - which officers said could "adversely affect" nearby habitats.

Eastern Daily Press: An aerial view of the farm's location in the villageAn aerial view of the farm's location in the village (Image: Google)

The notice required the operator to carry out an investigation into the root cause of the odour problems.

In total, the EA has carried out 40 odour assessments, 10 of which showed moderate-to-severe levels.

Eastern Daily Press: Breckland councillors Philip Cowen and Sarah SuggittBreckland councillors Philip Cowen and Sarah Suggitt (Image: Breckland Council)


EA officers also found that the pig buildings at the site, which became operational in June 2021, were not built within the permit's conditions.

It issued a separate enforcement notice requiring the company to make changes to the site and how it was operated.

This included extending chimney stacks and stopping the spreading of manure and slurry on surrounding fields.

This led the farm to put in a retrospective planning application, setting the scene for a new showdown with critics in the village.

More than 70 letters of objection have been lodged with the local council, Breckland, which is dealing with the issue.

There have also been frequent meetings in the village involving Breckland councillors and officers, including cabinet members Phil Cowen and Sarah Suggitt.

Eastern Daily Press: Ann Cuthbert says she regularly sees a haze she believes is a pollution plume over the Cherry Tree Farm siteAnn Cuthbert says she regularly sees a haze she believes is a pollution plume over the Cherry Tree Farm site (Image: Ann Cuthbert)


Cranswick has made changes to its buildings in an effort to tackle the problems, including adding 70 metal chimneys for ventilation.

These were later raised in height by three metres after villagers said the odour was still reaching nearby homes and and excessive nitrogen readings were found at a nearby conservation area.

A spokesman for the company said: "After construction, the requirements for the operating permit changed, and in dialogue with the EA and local authority, the changes were implemented.

"We continue to work closely with the EA who confirm we operate within the agreed parameters of the permit relating to the local environment.”

The company declined to comment on specific health concerns among villagers but said it was aware of locals' complaints and was "working closely with the EA on this matter".

A spokesman for the EA said there had been a reduction in public complaints this year.

He added: “We issued an enforcement notice last year due to breaches of permit at the site in relation to odour and emission.

"The operator has now made infrastructural and operational improvements on the site to further minimise odours off-site."

Eastern Daily Press: People cycling on roads surrounding Stow BedonPeople cycling on roads surrounding Stow Bedon (Image: Newsquest)


Despite this, locals say issues continue.

Ann Cuthbert, a solicitor who lives a short distance away from the farm, is one of the worst affected and has regularly reported incidents to the authorities for the last four years.

She has described plumes of hazy clouds being emitted from the farm regularly which linger around her home.

"We can smell the ammonia and it causes eye and lung irritation. When the pollution plumes are strong, food tastes like pig urine. Sometimes it can be so strong it is difficult to breathe when walking near the site."

Mrs Cuthbert worries about the effect it is having on her family's health.

She said her daughter had even been warned against having children by her doctor due to the risks of pollution and has been prescribed an inhaler to use during pollution incidents.

Eastern Daily Press: Tessa Fitzgerald, who lives near the farm in Stow BedonTessa Fitzgerald, who lives near the farm in Stow Bedon (Image: Owen Sennitt)


Hannah Reed, chairwoman of Stow Bedon and Breckles Parish Council, has said the last few years have felt like "banging your head against the wall".

"It seems like we have exhausted every avenue and there is nothing more we can do about it. 

"At certain times it is disgusting and makes you choke. It should not be affecting people's health and right to enjoy their home."

Tessa Fitzgerald, who has lived in her home in Stow Bedon for 22 years, added: "When there is a smell it is quite strong. It depends on the wind direction. I’m sensitive to smells and it can give me an irritated windpipe.

"It is not just Cherry Tree Farm - authorities need to consider the accumulative effect of farms and not treat them individually.

"It makes you want to throw your hands up in the air as there doesn't  feel like there is anything we can do."

Another local, who did not wish to be named, said at times he can feel like a "prisoner in his own home."


However, on the eastern side of Mere Road, where homes are further away, villagers were less concerned.

Allen Reeves, 71, said he sometimes "gets a wee whiff" but believes these are "normal country smells".

Philip Childs, a local parish councillor, added: "The smell is better than it used to be."

Eastern Daily Press: Livestock farming has been found to cause harmful air pollutionLivestock farming has been found to cause harmful air pollution (Image: Ian Burt)


While the effects of health from emissions from vehicles, and industry are well known, the health harms posed by farming are perhaps not as well understood.

Recent research by scientists has shown ammonia levels are four times higher in farming regions than other areas in Europe.

Ammonia, particularly when combined with industrial and car fumes, has been linked to higher death rates, respiratory problems, cardiovascular diseases, cognitive decline and low birth weights.

Norfolk area is a major centre for the UK's pig farming industry and in recent years there has been a significant increase in the number of permits for 'mega-farms' - sites with a capacity for at least 40,000 indoor or outdoor poultry birds, 700 indoor breeding pigs, or 2,500 indoor production pigs.

There is growing backlash to farms on this scale, and plans to build a huge chicken farm and pig farm in Methwold have provoked significant opposition among locals and even the CEO of Quorn, which has a factory close by.

Lizzie Wilson, chief executive of the National Pig Association, believes the strict rules pig farms like Cherry Tree Farm have to follow ensure emissions are kept to a minimum.

She said: "Environmentally permitted pig farms like Cherry Tree Farm are subject to far more stringent regulations and monitoring requirements to minimise emissions and nuisance, as well as being legally compliant with restrictions on muck and slurry to ensure any impact on water quality is tightly controlled."

Eastern Daily Press: St Margaret's Church in neighbouring BrecklesSt Margaret's Church in neighbouring Breckles (Image: Newsquest)


The rural village of Stow Bedon sits between the market towns of Attleborough and Watton and has long been a thriving farming community and was well-established before the Norman period.

Its name means "holy place" in old English and the parish has a number of churches which includes St Margarets in the nearby hamlet of Great Breckles, known for its Saxon round tower.

It later attracted wealthy individuals who built two grand halls - Breckles Hall and Stow Bedon Hall - built between 1500 to 1600.

In the Second World War, a decoy airfield was constructed to confuse incoming German bombers, which was situated behind Cherry Tree Farm.