An English farmer has been sentenced to 12 months in prison and ordered to pay £600,000 in prosecution costs after destroying 1.5km of the protected River Lugg in Herefordshire.

The damage caused by John Price is the "worst case" of riverside destruction seen by Natural England and the Environment Agency and could take several decades to be fully restored.

The river is a designated site of special scientific interest due to the high diversity of wildlife that lives there, including otters, kingfishers, trout, salmon, trees, aquatic plant life and invertebrates.

Price used heavy machinery, including bulldozers and excavators, to dredge and re-profile the river at Kingsland, Herefordshire, destroying the riverbed and banks.

The unconsented works were in breach of several regulations, including the Reduction and Prevention of Agricultural Diffuse Pollution (England) Regulations 2018, also known as the farming rules for water, and operations prohibited in the notification of a site of special scientific interest (SSSI), which persisted despite Mr Price being issued with a stop notice.


In addition to his prison sentence and prosecution costs, Price has been disqualified from being a director of a limited company for three years and a restoration order under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 has been imposed, requiring him to carry out a number of actions to restore the river.

Natural England area manager Emma Johnson said “the destruction of the River Lugg was devastating for the abundance and range of species which thrived in the river” and added that they will take the strongest action against those who do not respect the laws that protect the environment and wildlife.

"The River Lugg is one of the most iconic rivers in the UK and it is important that we protect and preserve its natural beauty and diversity," Johnson said.

Extreme measures

Place manager of the Environment Agency for Herefordshire Martin Quine urged landowners never to take extreme measures and to always work closely with the Environment Agency around river management to agree on the best solutions for both landowners and the environment.

"We provide advice and guidance, but will impose sanctions or prosecute where appropriate to protect the environment and ensure those who breach regulations are held to account.

"The vast majority of landowners and users fully co-operate with this process," he said.