Landowner jailed for River Lugg damage


A Herefordshire landowner has been sentenced to 12 months in prison for damaging a stretch of the River Lugg.

John Price was also ordered to pay costs of £600,000 for carrying out unconsented works along the riverbank, which included dredging and bulldozing the riverbanks, removing trees and vegetation.

Natural England and the Environment Agency led a joint investigation into the environmental harm caused by the work which persisted despite a Stop Notice. Mr Price's actions were in breach of several regulations, including the Reduction and Prevention of Agricultural Diffuse Pollution, and operations specified within a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Despite being issued with a Stop Notice, John Price straightened and dredged the River Lugg and removed vegetation from its banks (DEFRA).

It's estimated that fish, plants and native crayfish may take years to return to the river and mature trees will take decades to re-establish and provide shade cover to the river.

Speaking after the verdict, Emma Johnson, Area Manager for Natural England, said: "The destruction of this section of the River Lugg was devastating for the abundance and range of species which thrived in this river. The River Lugg is one of the most iconic rivers in the UK and to see this wanton destruction take place was devastating. This is why we have used our powers as regulators to see that justice was done and to act as a stark warning to others that we will take the strongest action against those who do not respect the laws that protect the environment and wildlife we all cherish.

"We want to ensure that Mr Price now takes the necessary actions which we hope, in time will restore this much-loved stretch of river to its former condition."

Craig Bennett, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said: "I'm delighted that the prosecution has been successful but prosecutions like this are all too rare. Underfunding of our environmental regulators means investigations and enforcement action lags behind the urgent need to protect our rivers, which are facing unparalleled pressures, including agricultural run-off, and sewage pollution. We need to see strong support from politicians for our enforcement agencies and more resources for the agencies to do the job properly.

"Prosecutions by the Environment Agency's predecessor for water-related offences numbered upwards of 250 a year, whereas now numbers are close to a tenth of that, and staffing levels declined by a quarter in the decade since 2010. When only 14% of rivers in England are at good ecological status, and all fail chemical standards primarily due to historic pollution, the hollowing-out of these agencies is undermining our ability to protect and repair our damaged environment. The regulations that protect our natural world are only effective if our regulators are properly funded, so we need to see resources and political support for enforcement restored.

"Landowners and businesses need to know there's a strong and realistic deterrent, and that if they damage or pollute our waterways, enforcement action will surely follow. Otherwise, polluters prosper, while society and nature pay the price."