Farmer fined for failing to fix pollution risk

A Northumberland farmer who was fined £19,000 last year for polluting a watercourse has been fined again for failing to fix the problem.

John Laing, 54, of New Heaton Farm in Cornhill-on-Tweed has been ordered to pay £2,855 in fines and costs for failing to fix the source of the pollution in a protected watercourse.

Mr Laing appeared at Berwick-upon-Tweed Magistrates’ Court on Thursday (5 April), having previously admitted contempt of court.

See also: Ways to reduce the risks of water pollution

The court heard that, in January 2017, Mr Laing was ordered by Newcastle Magistrates’ Court to repair a silo storage unit by 30 June 2017, to prevent silage leaking into a tributary that flows into the River Till.

Water pollution in a river

Silage from John Laing’s farm was found to be polluting the River Till

Mr Laing needed to carry out specific works to capture and prevent any effluent from escaping the silo, and provide written certification from a chartered engineer that the works had been completed to the required standards.

While Mr Laing had enlisted the services of a builder, work had not started before the June 2017 deadline. Visits by Environment Agency (EA) officers in August and September 2017 revealed that some work had begun, but not as agreed and to a poor standard.

Assurances

In mitigation, Mr Laing said he had relied on the assurances of a builder as to the quality of the remedial work and was no longer using the storage facility himself.

Neil Paisley, senior agriculture officer at the EA, said action would be taken against anyone who failed to follow environmental laws, and added: “John Laing has repeatedly shown a disregard for the law and a disregard for the environment.

“Pollution of any watercourse is a serious offence because of the devastating impact it can have on fish, wildlife and ecosystems.”

If anyone spots a potential pollution issue they can report it to the EA’s free 24-hour incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.