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THOSE who caused severe damage to a protected river in Herefordshire commited a “crime against the environment” and should be prosecuted, a wildlife trust said today.
Herefordshire Wildlife Trust (HWT) said that a mile-long stretch of the River Lugg and its banks have been “bulldozed, straightened and reprofiled into a sterile canal,” causing “huge repercussions for wildlife,” including crayfish, otters and salmon, and leaving habitats “completely obliterated.”
The trust alleged that a bulldozer was used by people “well aware” of the fact that the river is designated as a site of special scientific interest, suggesting that they deliberately flouted laws intended to protect wildlife.
HWT chief executive Helen Stace said: “This is a crime against the environment. Swift action needs to be taken and we want to see the authorities investigate the matter swiftly.
“We expect this case to be dealt with in a serious and robust manner and any resulting prosecution should act as a deterrent to prevent anyone committing this type of crime ever again.”
HWT said that repairing the damage and restoring natural process and wildlife to this landscape will take decades.
The Wildlife Trusts chief executive Craig Bennett said: “The government has promised to transform our environmental governance as we leave the EU and for the UK to be a world leader in environmental protection.
“Unfortunately, the government has so far failed to live up to this standard, with poor resourcing leaving Natural England unable to properly monitor and protect our most important wild places.”
A joint investigation of the damage by the Environmental Agency and Natural England, assisted by West Mercia Police, is taking place.
Herefordshire Council’s Marc Willimont said the local authority is also helping with the investigation, adding that it will “be considering if there has been a breach in planning or any other related matters for which the council is responsible.”
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