Kirkcaldy family’s anger at Fife Council over stench from restaurant ventilation

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Fife Council has been slammed for the way it has dealt with a family whose health is suffering and cannot use their garden because of the stench from a neighbouring restaurant.

The smell was described as “stomach churning” by Kirkcaldy MP Neale Hanvey after he visited the flat the McCalls have lived in for over 25 years.

After battling for four years to get action, they have now gone public in the hope of sparking a response.

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The family of three have lived in the High Street without any issues, until 2019 when a Turkish restaurant, Pasha, opened up below them.

Daniel and Keith McCall say they cannot use their garden because of the stench (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)Daniel and Keith McCall say they cannot use their garden because of the stench (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)
Daniel and Keith McCall say they cannot use their garden because of the stench (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)

The root of the problem is the siting of an extractor fan on the back of a low wall in the adjacent overgrown garden which the McCalls say is simply unfit for purpose - it should be at high level - and that has caused a “constant acrid smoke with a dense putrid odour” and noise issues that have ruined their quality of life.

But their anger is aimed directly at the local authority which it says has let them down.

Keith McCall, his wife Morag and son Daniel, say they have reached the end of their tether with the council, have taken extensive legal advice, and now called in their MP in a bid to address what they say is should be a simple issue.

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Keith explained:”Travel agent AT Mays used to be below us, and then it became a pizza takeaway and then a restaurant and we had no problems with any of them, In fact the owners became friends of ours.

The ventilation pipe at ground level (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)The ventilation pipe at ground level (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)
The ventilation pipe at ground level (Pic: Fife Photo Agency)

“We’ve never objected to any business moving in, and have gone out of our way to be civil, but the restaurant uses charcoal, and the ventilation system is simply not able to cope - and because the extractor fan is low down in an overgrown garden, it is not appropriate, but the council won’t act.

“The stench is awful, and the council has admitted long term exposure to charcoal will cause health issues with respiratory illness and cancer.”

Keith’s son, Daniel, who has epilepsy has started having seizures which he blames on the lack of ventilation and stress the situation is causing, having been seizure free for some time.

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He continued: “We’ve lived with it for four years. We cannot ventilate our bathroom or bedroom, all rooms are affected, and we can’t use what was once a lovely garden.”

The low level vent at the centre of the complaintThe low level vent at the centre of the complaint
The low level vent at the centre of the complaint

An abatement order was put in place in December 2021 to give the restaurant three months to carry out the necessary work, but, Keith said nothing happened - and said officers failed to follow up, despite a letter from the local authority confirming the family are “experiencing an intolerable situation.”

Keith said going public was his “last resort”

“Four years ago I would have fought tooth and nail to help keep this restaurant open and run properly, but when we’re told to move, or close our windows - not any more.

“The fault lies with Fife Council. It has a duty of care to residents and it has let us down,- and several different department are to blame.

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“We are the only family which lives in this block - every other one is a business which closes as the restaurant opens, so we are the only ones suffering, and it can go on until 1:00am. That’s 12 hours a day, six days a week.”

“Our family has done nothing wrong. We made no objection when it became a takeaway, we have never tried to block any business, but we can’t go on like this.”

Mr Hanvey described the council’s lack of action as”indefensible.”

"There's no other way to put it,” he said. “The McCalls have been badly let down by Fife Council officers. I do not understand why this situation has dragged on so long when the problem is so obvious, and the solution so straight forward.

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"The reluctance of officers to do their job and protect my constituent's wellbeing and safety is indefensible, especially given the alarming health impacts already being experienced. My office has tried and tried to get action, but it's been blocked time and again.

"I was shocked to learn that an officer went as far as to claim that there was no apparent problem at times when I visited the property. The outflow from the restaurant's wholly inadequate ventilation is a constant acrid smoke with a dense putrid odour. It's stomach churning.

"In addition, the noise from the system is also constant, yet the council refuses to measure this noise properly. Why on earth would officers behave in this way and put a family through such misery by dragging their heels on their statutory duties? It makes no sense.”

Mr Hanvey said he was so concerned he was considering calling in the Health and Safety Executive and SEPA, Scotland’s environment watchdog.

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Fife Council said it has been involved in investigating Mr McCall’s complaints about odour since May 20221, and noise since November.

Linda Turner, service manager for public protection, said: “We served notice on the operator to give them the opportunity to solve the problem. That expired in March last year, and since then our team have visited Mr McCall three times and found no issues with odour on each occasion. Noise recordings taken from Mr McCall’s home are currently under review.”She added: “We are happy to visit site again if Mr McCall gives us permission to do so to carry out further investigation.”

The officers’ actions were also fully supported by Councillor Jan Wincott, environment spokesperson.She described the MP’s comments as”very unhelpful when our teams are trying to resolve this issue with the complainant” and added: “Our teams will continue to try to liaise with Mr McCall and are doing their best to conclude these investigations."

A spokesman for Pasha said it was looking to install a high level flue to deal with the issue.