Natural England and the Environment Agency today applauded the seriousness the Court took for the serious and lasting damage to the Lugg River, which has destroyed habitat and wildlife on a stretch of the one of the country’s most unspoiled rivers.
John Price appeared today at Kidderminster Magistrates Court and was sentenced to 12 months in prison.
He was also ordered to pay prosecution costs of £600,000 and was stripped of his rights as director of a limited liability company for three years. In addition, a Restoration Order under the Wildlife and Rural Affairs Act of 1981 was issued requiring Mr. Price to take certain actions to restore the river.
The verdict is the result of legal action taken last year by Natural England and the Environment Agency following a joint in-depth investigation into the environmental harm caused by the work in 2020 and 2021.
The Lugg River before it was destroyed by the landowner
Mr Price used heavy machinery including bulldozers and excavators to dredge and renovate the 1.5km stretch of the River Lugg at Kingsland, Herefordshire, destroying the riverbed and banks.
The work without consent violated a number of regulations, including the Agricultural Diffusion Pollution Prevention and Mitigation Regulation (UK) 2018, also known as the Water Cultivation Rules; and activities prohibited by the Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) notice, which continued despite Mr Price’s issuance of a Stop Notice.
Due to its exceptionally high diversity of wildlife, the Lugg River is a designated SSSI, with 121 species of river plants that inhabit the river and provide habitat for invertebrates, fish and birds. Damage to rivers and riverbanks has removed the habitat of hundreds of these species including otters, kingfishers and trout, as well as destroyed trees, aquatic plant life and invertebrates. . It is anticipated that it will take decades to reestablish mature trees to provide stability, cover and shade in order to restore river diversity. Native fish, plants, crayfish, and birds can take years to gradually return to previous populations.
In sentencing Mr Price, the Judge noted that neither the Environment Agency nor Natural England did anything to encourage these works.
Speaking after the ruling, Emma Johnson, Regional Director for Natural England said:
“The destruction of this stretch of the Lugg River has been devastating to the richness and diversity of the species that inhabit this river.
“The Lugg River is one of the most iconic rivers in the UK and seeing this indiscriminate destruction unfold is devastating. This is why we have used our powers as a regulator to see that justice has been done and act as a clear warning to others that we will Take the strongest action against those who do not respect the environmental and wildlife laws that we all hold dear.
“We want to ensure that Mr Price is now taking the necessary actions, which we hope will promptly restore this much-loved stretch of river to its original condition.”
Martin Quine, Environment Agency Site Manager for Herefordshire added:
“We welcome the outcome of this prosecution against the unauthorized works on River Lugg.
“The Environment Agency is working hard to restore the health of our rivers. It was a complex task that could only be achieved in cooperation with the landowners. We provide advice and guidance but will apply sanctions or prosecution where appropriate to protect the environment and hold those who violate regulations accountable. The vast majority of landowners and users fully cooperate with this process.
“While Mr Price’s justification for the works was to help prevent flooding of local properties, his actions did not have any flood prevention benefit.
“The destruction of the riverbank is inadequate flood management. Importantly, the Judge recognized that the works had significantly weakened flood protection measures rather than improved them.
“We urge landowners to never take extreme measures like this and instead always work closely with the Environment Agency on river management to agree on the best solutions for both. landowners and the environment.”
As a Designated Site of Special Scientific Concern (SSSI), Lugg enjoys the highest levels of environmental protection.
Works on SSSI or any water source must be done in a way that protects the environment and does not cause any impact on flooding. Such work can only be carried out after obtaining a permit from the Environment Agency.