Landowner facing legal action over ‘decimation’ of Herefordshire river

A landowner is facing legal action for what environmental regulators say is the decimation of a protected river.

Sandra Laville 

Natural England and the Environment Agency (EA) say the charges against the landowner include causing damage to a site of special scientific interest (SSSI), carrying out clearance and reprofiling of the riverbank which was likely to cause damage to or endanger the stability of the river and allowing silt to discharge into the river.

The agencies investigated the actions at the River Lugg near Kingsland, Herefordshire, after complaints that clearance was taking place along the bank in December 2020.

The agencies were alerted after reports of activities including dredging, illegal felling of trees and profiling of the riverbanks over nearly a mile (1.5km) of the river.

The officials, along with the police, issued a stop notice to the landowner to halt the works, which the local wildlife trust said had devastated the river and would have dire consequences for wildlife and water quality.

After a long investigation, the EA and Natural England said on Wednesday they had begun legal action. The charges also relate to further works which are alleged to have been carried out by the landowner in December 2021.

Oliver Harmar, the chief operating officer at Natural England, said: The decimation of this section of the River Lugg has been devastating to the local environment and to local people, destroying the habitats of iconic wildlife such as otters, kingfisher and salmon. It was heartbreaking to see this beautiful riverside illegally damaged.”

The area is protected as an SSSI owing to its importance for nature. Consent is required before any works are carried out within an SSSI, which had not been granted, the agencies said.