An online petition has been launched urging support for a Herefordshire farmer who carried out river works along the protected River Lugg.
John Price, a potato, cereal and beef farmer from Day House Farm, Kingsland, is facing 10 charges from government agencies related to causing “unconsented operations and causing damage to a site of special scientific interest [SSSI]”.
The Environment Agency and Natural England have announced joint legal action against Mr Price, claiming the banks of the Lugg were “damaged in December 2020 causing suspected significant and long-term ecological harm”.
Mr Price has been summoned to appear at Kidderminster Magistrates Court on 18 May for a plea and case hearing. He is expected to deny all the charges.
Ahead of the hearing, a petition – entitled “Bridge over troubled water” – has been launched on change.org by Robert Harris, a fellow farmer from Orleton, near Leominster.
Mr Harris told Farmers Weekly: “I have known John Price for 15 years and he is a good farming citizen.
“There has been 30 to 40 years of neglect from the Environment Agency not carrying out river maintenance along the River Lugg. They charge for the drainage, but they don’t come along and do the maintenance.
“Everyone is just getting fed up with the lack of maintenance of the rivers. A lot of homes are flooding because the ground is just lying wet.
“John cleared the third archway of the River Lugg Bridge and removed the obstacles that had been causing the flooding. The houses used to flood, but they haven’t flooded since he’s done the work.
“If the EA can’t be bothered to do the work, they need to relax the rules to allow farmers to do it themselves.”
The petition calls for all riparian owners to be allowed to carry out maintenance and remove obstructions, such as dead wood and silt from the rivers, brooks and streams so that watercourses can flow freely.
‘Lack of river maintenance’
It states: “Due to the lack of river maintenance, there seems to be an increase in flooding both on agricultural land and the flooding of homes causing a risk of life to both humans and animals.
“Since the ‘flood arch’ in Kingsland has been cleared out, the houses there are no longer being flooded after heavy rainfall. Further upstream in the debris-filled Lugg, flooding is just as bad as before these works were carried out, likewise, downstream.”
It adds: “Ditches and land drains running into brooks and other tributaries should be encouraged to be maintained annually to allow the ground to be less as saturated than it currently is in places due to the lack of maintenance, which, as a result, has led to more surface run-off and an increase in flooding.
“After maintenance on watercourses, the flooding is reduced.
“The flora and fauna along the watercourse banks will always continue to regrow, even after erosion on the banks, due to heavy rainfalls or flooding, have been dealt with, which may involve the re-profiling of them (the banks).”