An investigation has begun into a County Durham landfill site believed to be the source of a pungent smell - which residents now say is "beyond a joke".

The Environment Agency has revealed that it is investigating what they have called "issues" regarding odour at Ashcourt in Newton Aycliffe following numerous complaints about a gassy smell coming from its site since late 2023.

Ashcourt's landfill site, which it acquired from the John Wade Group in July 2023 was identified by the agency late last year as being the centre of a "pungent" methane smell from gas wells.

An agency investigation later revealed the smell comprises of methane, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphite gases.

In a public meeting on January 10 in Brafferton village hall, north of Darlington, more than 30 residents gathered to ask questions to an environment agency representative who understood work is well underway at the site to reduce the smell. 

Darlington and Stockton Times: Brafferton, County Durham.Brafferton, County Durham. (Image: NORTHERN ECHO)

However, the agency has now confirmed that an investigation into "issues" regarding the odour at the site is underway.

As the investigation begins, The Northern Echo has spoken to residents in Brafferton who claim the smell is still lingering - despite continuing promises to fix it.

Two residents, who have lived in the village for decades, said they have "never experienced anything like this".

"Work to remove the smell has clearly not worked - it is still here," they said.

They added: "The smell is just awful when it comes over. We have heard news that it will be fixed, but we are sceptical. 

"At the minute, it feels like nobody wants to know about it."

One woman, who also wished to remain anonymous, said the issue of a smell is now "beyond a joke" as she revealed she has complained to the Environment Agency several times.

She said: "The Environment Agency told us to ring each time we smelt it, so I know people have called multiple times a day.

"It gets worse at night, and it fills the house - you simply cannot get it out and it absolutely stinks. 

"Now, it's just beyond a joke. I've never smelt something like that in my life, it's like the back of a bin truck."

Darlington and Stockton Times: Ashcourt site.Ashcourt site. (Image: Ashcourt)

Other residents, however, contradict ideas the smell is worsening. Joe Burton, 31, has lived in Brafferton for a year and was first puzzled by the smell.

"At first, I thought it was my car on the fritz," Joe said.

"There is really not a nice way to describe it, it's like a gas smell. But, it's not been as bad recently and it's got a little bit better - it hasn't bothered me that much."

He added: "As much as it may be a bad smell, what are the health implications? That is what concerns me."

Another resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said he has "most definitely" noticed the smell.

He said: "You can only really smell it when the wind blows in this direction. Previously, driving north on the A1(M), I thought there was something wrong with my car as the smell was so strong.

"It has come into my house before, but not to any great extent. I'd be quite happy for it to go away."

Paul Howell, MP for Sedgefield, has said he is "disappointed" about the ongoing issue following meetings he had with Ashcourt in December.

He said: "I am beyond disappointed that this has not been resolved yet, and I continue to encourage the Environment Agency to use all efforts to sort it."


A spokesperson for Ashcourt confirmed they are still working alongside the Environment Agency to resolve the odour issues.

They said: "We are continuing to work very hard to tackle the issues and whilst we have completed a lot of work we have been significantly hampered by the weather which has impacted our schedule.

"However, we remain committed to resolving the issues and are in continual contact with the Environment Agency who are making regular visits to site to monitor the progress."