There has been widespread coverage following the sentencing of a landowner for causing significant damage to the riverbed and habitats along the River Lugg in Herefordshire.
Mr Price was sentenced to 12 months in prison and 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.
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.
Martin Quine, Environment Agency Place Manager for Herefordshire added:
We welcome the outcome of this prosecution for the unconsented works on the River Lugg.
The Environment Agency is working hard to restore the health of our rivers. It is a complex task that can only be achieved in partnership with landowners. We provide advice and guidance but will impose sanctions or prosecute where appropriate to protect the environment and ensure those who breach regulations are held to account. 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 to local properties, his actions did not have any flood prevention benefit. The destruction of river banks is not appropriate flood management. It is important that the Judge recognised that the works significantly weakened flood prevention measures rather than improved them.
We urge landowners never to take extreme measures such as this and instead to always work closely with the Environment Agency around river management to agree the best solutions for both landowners and the environment.