UK: Angus Farming Company Fined for Illegal Dredging
Scotland’s environment regulator is reminding farmers and land managers that liaising with them before carrying out work in rivers could help them avoid ending up in court.
The warning comes after a company was fined £500 at Arbroath Sheriff Court after carrying out illegal work in an Angus burn.
D Geddes Farms Limited, was found guilty, after trial of carrying on engineering works, namely dredging the Gighty Burn during a period critical to the spawning of juvenile fish at Arbroath Sheriff Court. The matter was investigated by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and reported to the Procurator Fiscal.
A report of silty water in the Gighty Burn was received by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) on 18 April 2011. When an officer investigated he found a digger carrying out dredging of the burn. The SEPA officer advised the operator of the digger to stop what he was doing immediately.
D. Geddes Farms Limited had instructed D. Geddes Contractors Limited to carry out these dredging works. The dredged section was noted to be approximately 850 metres in length.
John Shabashow, SEPA’s investigating officer, said:
“Watercourses are dynamic systems and any man made alterations can have unexpected and dramatic impacts, both upstream and downstream of the worked area.
“This could include destruction of habitat. If the work had been carried out in accordance with the General Binding Rules, any environmental impact would have been kept within acceptable limits and wildlife would have been protected.”
Stuart McGowan, Dundee & Angus Unit Manager at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) said:
“While I’m satisfied with the outcome of this prosecution it is likely that this case could have been avoided had the operator spoken with SEPA prior to starting work.
“Dredging carried out in the wrong way can cause serious environmental harm, damage to fisheries and increased flooding downstream. However SEPA does not want to impede farmers or landowners who want to improve field drainage.”
To clarify, SEPA does not require an application to authorize any of the following activities:
-The removal of in-stream or bank-side vegetation;
-The removal of in-stream debris/rubbish;
-The construction of new drains and ditches (where no watercourse previously existed);
-Construction and maintenance of road drains.
Dredging already straightened ditches less than 1m wide, subject to good practice being followed.
Stuart McGowan further explained:
“Other activity, such as sediment removal from dry gravel or upstream and downstream of bridges, requires registration which can be acquired online (at a cost of £77). If more extensive works are proposed, a formal license may be required, but we urge farmers and landowners to cooperate with neighbours to apply in these situations. That way the cost is shared and a catchment based management solution can be agreed. SEPA is already working in catchments where farmers have come to us with proposals for sediment management. I would reiterate that our message is to approach SEPA for advice. Our Arbroath office dealt with 17 dredging related queries in the last month. Out of these 13 were allowed to proceed without further contact, while two required registration and two required licences.”
Press Release, February 28, 2013