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Mystery of Norfolk smell deepens as British Sugar investigates

PUBLISHED: 10:27 28 June 2017 | UPDATED: 08:13 29 June 2017

British Sugar plant in Wissington is cultivating cannabis plants that will be used as a key ingredient in a new prescription medicine. Picture: James Bass

British Sugar plant in Wissington is cultivating cannabis plants that will be used as a key ingredient in a new prescription medicine. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic

Debate has raged over the past week about what could be behind a mysterious smell which has been reported in towns and villages across Norfolk.

British Sugar is investigating if the work they are doing at their Wissington site could be the source of a mysterious smell in Norfolk. Photo: British Sugar British Sugar is investigating if the work they are doing at their Wissington site could be the source of a mysterious smell in Norfolk. Photo: British Sugar

One of the most popular theories to emerge is that it has come from a British Sugar plant in Wissington, near Downham Market.

British Sugar has now confirmed that it has launched an investigation into whether or not it would be possible for their site to be responsible and if so, whether the smell could have spread over such a large area of Norfolk.

A spokesperson for British Sugar said: “We’ve been aware in recent days of the concerns about unusual smells across a wide area of Norfolk.

MORE: What is the mysterious smell sweeping Norfolk?

“As part of the harvesting process at our horticultural operations there can be an intense smell for intermittent periods of time. We have been extremely mindful of this when looking at the various processes on site to minimise any impact on the local community.

“At British Sugar we’re currently investigating the recent reports to understand the distance any smells could travel. We will do everything we can to reduce the intensity of any smell from our operations and any impact that this could cause.”

The British Sugar plant has become the centre of various theories because of a deal struck in October last year between Cornerways, owner of British Sugar, and the British drugs company, GW Pharmaceuticals.

This deal meant that the Wissington plant would cease tomato production and instead turn to cultivating cannabis plants that will be used as a key ingredient in a new prescription medicine, which aims to treat a number of rare childhood epilepsy disorders.

The treatment, named Epidiolex, is still in an experimental phase but it is reported to have shown very positive results and could be the first drug of its kind to be approved in America by the US Food and Drug Administration.

An investigation is unlikely to conclusively solve the mystery of what is behind the unusual smell that has swept the county as the cause may be impossible to establish with absolute certainty.

Descriptions have also varied between towns and villages, which indicates that there may not be one single source to be found.

What the weather tells us

The weather over the last seven days is a major factor in understanding how a smell has crossed such a large part of Norfolk.

Data from weather monitoring company, Weatherquest, shows that if there is a single location responsible for the smell, it may not be Wissington.

A spokesperson for Weatherquest said: “We have, in the past, had industrial smells coming from the continent that were noticeable in Norfolk so it’s possible for a smell to travel far if the wind is strong enough.

“It would need to be a strong westerly wind for it to travel from the British Sugar plant and across the county but we’ve not had strong winds for quite some time.

“We recorded a westerly wind on Friday but apart from that winds have been light and mainly from an easterly direction, implying that if it’s noticed in areas around Norwich it would have to come from somewhere to the east of the city.”

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