Farm hits out at EA over £450,000 river work cost


A farm that paid out greater than £466,000 after it broken a river habitat has accused authorities officers of inflicting psychological duress and losing taxpayer cash.

Paul Rackham Ltd from Manor Farm, Bridgham, Norfolk, dredged and reprofiled the banks of the Little Ouse River at its Lodge Farm Estate, Gasthorpe, in 2018.

But it did so with no allow and significantly broken water vole habitats and invertebrate populations on the Norfolk Flood Plain.

See additionally: Damage to water vole habitat prices farmer over £450,000

The agency pleaded responsible to offences below the Wildlife Act 1981 at Norwich Crown Court final month. It was fined £17,000 and ordered to pay £49,000 of authorized prices.

But the farm enterprise’s authorized consultant, Matthew Knight of Knight Solicitors, mentioned the case was counter-productive and was a waste of taxpayers’ cash.

That was partly as a result of the farm had already sunk £400,000 of its personal cash into an in depth restoration undertaking, working alongside an Environment Agency (EA) nominated specialist.

Regret

Paul Rackham Ltd deeply regretted not making use of for a allow earlier than carrying out the unique work and agreed wholeheartedly to work intently with the company, mentioned Mr Knight.

Its willingness to take action mirrored a beforehand impeccable environmental method that had seen woodland and different wildlife habitats restored throughout the entire property over a few years.

The undertaking went approach past a primary reparation and was as an alternative a stage-zero restoration. It noticed the river, which had been canalised centuries in the past, restored to its pre-Roman period course. 

Because of the lengths the farm went to, not simply to restore harm however to enhance the realm past recognition, Mr Knight believed no authorized motion could be taken.

This perception was bolstered when an company official instructed the farm in February 2020 that the convivial working relationship meant a prosecution was unlikely.

Little Ouse river before work carried out

Little Ouse River earlier than work was carried out © Environment Agency

Summonses

But in September that yr, the enterprise was hit with 9 summonses, some in opposition to the corporate, whereas others focused Paul Rackham senior personally.

“We had been completely shocked. Paul Rackham senior is 86 with severe well being points and the authorized pursuit of him personally was heavy-handed and unwarranted,” Mr Knight mentioned.

Despite pleas, the company continued with its authorized problem in opposition to Mr Rackham – a course of described by Mr Knight as “shameful”.

What was initially a real mistake by a caring farm enterprise resulted within the authorized pursuit of an aged man, Mr Knight mentioned.

The added psychological duress all through the previous two years has not helped his bodily situation, he added.

Paul Rackham’s robust working relationship with the EA, might have been an instance of a joint-effort with restricted cost to the taxpayer and most profit for the atmosphere, Mr Knight prompt. 

Instead, the expensive authorized proceedings and duress might properly act as a deterrent for others to hold out work in good religion with the EA sooner or later.

‘Proportionate’

A spokesperson for the EA mentioned: “Farming is integral to a affluent future, and we wish to work constructively with the sector at each alternative on environmental enchancment and flood administration.

“The company takes proportionate enforcement motion to carry companies again into compliance.

“This consists of offering recommendation and steering for companies making an attempt to do the suitable factor, issuing enforcement notices, and penalising companies solely as a final resort.”

The spokesperson added: “The courtroom took the numerous remediation work under consideration as a mitigating function when sentencing the corporate.”