Court ruling hailed as huge boost for Seafield stench campaigners

Rob Kirkwood at the Seafield Sewage works.
Rob Kirkwood at the Seafield Sewage works.
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A COURT ruling against Scottish Water over an odour nuisance in the Highlands has been hailed as a huge boost for campaigners seeking compensation for the notorious Seafield stench.

Wealthy Willie McBean sued the company over the smell from a sewage plant built next to his property in the village of Boat of Garten.

Now Judge Lord Woolman has ruled Scottish Water were running the plant in a way that created “foul and offensive odours” which were causing a nuisance.

Rob Kirkwood, of Leith Links Residents’ Association, who has been campaigning for decades over the persistent stench from Seafield sewage works, said the court finding gave them a much better chance of winning their own challenge.

He said residents planned to launch a collective “class action” against Scottish Water as soon as new legislation allowing such legal cases came into effect. Mr Kirkwood 
said: “The judgement says Scottish Water has been operating a sewage works in such a way it creates an odour nuisance.

“Damages have yet to be decided upon but they should be substantial.

“But significantly, no reference seems to have been made to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) or the council health officers, who traditionally have taken it upon themselves to claim they were the only ones who could establish an odour nuisance.

“This court judgement was based on residents in the village and two expert witnesses.”

He said when residents complained about smells from Seafield, the authorities rarely declared it an odour nuisance.

“We never get enforcement action because the officers never go out in time. Only once has an enforcement notice been properly served.”

But he said the court ruling meant bodies like Sepa and the council’s environmental health department were now “irrelevant”.

“Before, Sepa and the health department have suggested we somehow needed their testimony for any court action to be sucessful. But this judgement seems to be saying the testimony of residents together with experts is enough to define odour as a nuisance.

“That has implications for any class action we take against Scottish Water and we intend to do that.”

Class actions are already an option south of the border and legislation paving the way for such challenges has now been passed by the Scottish Parliament.

“It has received royal assent and now we are just waiting fo the rules to be written,” said Mr Kirkwood.

“Scottish Water has been creating an odour for 40 years at Seafiled and we want compensation.

“We will be pursuing our class action to get damages for the way they poisoned the atmosphere for years.”

A Scottish Water spokeswoman said: “The case has not concluded and Scottish Water will not comment while it is ongoing. “

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com