The Angling Trust and Fish Legal welcome the decision by Natural England and the Environment Agency to launch legal action against a landowner for damage to a protected area of the River Lugg in Herefordshire. The landowner carried out unauthorised work along a 1.5km section of the River Lugg in December 2020. The charges brought against the landowner also relate to further alleged damaging work done in December 2021.
Stuart Singleton-White, Head of Campaigns at the Angling Trust, said, “We’ve had to wait for over two years for the Environment Agency and Natural England to take this decision to prosecute the landowner. This can’t come soon enough. The damage done was devastating to some of the most important wildlife habitats we have, including spawning grounds for salmon and other fish.
We hope both the EA and NE will be calling for the strongest possible sentence if a successful prosecution is secured. Landowners have to know they cannot simply destroy our rivers with impunity.
However, this is only big news because it is a protected site, and because so little prosecution and enforcement action takes place. Our rivers suffer abuse and damage every day. We know the EA does not respond to the majority of incidents reported to it, and of those it does respond to, prosecutes even less. We call on the EA to do more to prosecute these abusers of our rivers, not only at protected sites but wherever such wonton vandalism takes place.”
The announcement of from Natural England and the Environment Agency comes on the day the Angling Trust published its report, ‘Riparian Habitat Destruction’ highlighting a series of examples, including the River Lugg, of unacceptable and unnecessary habitat destruction along the banks of no fewer than nine English rivers. This is in direct contravention of both the Agency’s own guidance and national government policy on the environment.
Justin Neal, Solicitor at Fish Legal, said, “We have a number of cases of environmental vandalism on our books where farmers and other landowners have canalised and dug out riverbeds and banks under the misapprehension that this would improve drainage and avoid flooding of fields or improve access for machinery and vehicles.
There are also cases where landowners have dumped rubbish next to rivers in large quantities which has prevented access and caused environmental damage. In nearly all of these cases, there is evidence that the EA has either ignored reports or underreported the significance of the environmental harm caused to the river. In some of these, the EA has put it down to a neighbour dispute. The problem with that is that it leaves vulnerable clubs and riparians to have to fight the destruction themselves.
We are therefore pleased to see that in this case on the Lugg, the EA is pressing forwards with a prosecution under the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act. Let’s hope that the EA and NE secure a prosecution with a big fine for this appalling act of vandalism.”
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