A farmer has been jailed for “the worst case of riparian destruction” ever seen by environmental authorities after he vandalized 1.5km of the River Lugg in Herefordshire, destroying habitats for otters, kingfishers, trout and salmon.
Following the first prosecution under the Water Farming Rules, John Price was jailed for 12 months, ordered to pay prosecution costs of £600,000 and disqualified from being a director of a limited company for three years after admitting seven charges related to its “rampant” destruction. one of the most virgin rivers in the country.
The Environment and Natural England Agency, which brought the case against Price, said it would take decades to recover from the damage inflicted by the farmer, who was also served with a restoration order at Kidderminster magistrates court, demanding that he restore the river. .
Price used heavy machinery, including bulldozers and excavators, to dredge and re-profile a 1.5km stretch of the River Lugg in Kingsland, Herefordshire, destroying the river bed and banks, the Environment Agency said.
The unauthorized works breached various regulations, including the Agricultural Non-Point Pollution Prevention and Reduction (England) Regulations 2018, also known as the Agricultural Water Rules, and operations prohibited in the Site of Special Scientific Interest notification ( SSSI), which persisted despite Price receiving a “suspension notice”.
Due to the exceptionally high diversity of wildlife, the Lugg River is a designated SSSI, with 121 species of river plants providing habitat for invertebrates, fish and birds.
Damage to the river and banks eliminated the habitats of hundreds of these species, including otters, kingfishers, and salmon, as well as destroying trees, aquatic plants, and invertebrates.
The Environment Agency said it was expected to take decades to re-establish mature trees to provide stability, cover and shade to restore the river’s diversity. Native fish, plants, crayfish, and birds can take years to gradually return to previous populations.
Speaking after the verdict, Emma Johnson, Natural England area manager, said: “The destruction of this section of the River Lugg was devastating to the abundance and variety of species that thrived in this river.
“The River Lugg is one of the UK’s most iconic rivers and seeing this senseless destruction was devastating.”
Price, 68, of Day House Farm, Kingsland, who owns land on either side of the Lugg with assets valued at between £21m and £25m, argued that he took steps to prevent flooding, but Environment Agency experts they said there was no such benefit from their destruction.