AnglingTrust The voice of Angling


Payouts for two angling clubs as Fish Legal sends out clear message to polluting farmers


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Farmers responsible for polluting the Wellow Brook in Somerset and Willow Pool in Cheshire have paid out over £35,000 in damages and costs in September following settlement of civil claims brought by Fish Legal.

The compensation was paid to two Fish Legal member angling clubs whose fisheries were devastated in separate slurry pollution incidents.

Wellow Brook Fly Fishing Syndicate received £11,108 in damages from Mr C Brunt / Brunt Partners of Clandown Farm, Radstock near Bath after a farm slurry lagoon collapse released a “tsunami of slurry”(1) into the club’s wild trout fishery in February 2013. The pollution was traced to the failure of a retaining wall of a cow slurry pit constructed of sleepers.

The farmers were slow to respond to the pollution, slow to report it to the Environment Agency and their emergency procedures were inadequate. Despite that they were not prosecuted; paying £5,000 in an ‘enforcement undertaking’ to the Bristol & Avon Rivers Trust instead of a fine. The same farmers went on to pollute again in April 2016.(2)

In a separate incident, the Tarporley & District Angling Club claimed compensation from farming contractors J. H. Willis & Son of Holme Farm in Ince, near Chester following a significant fish kill caused by poor slurry spreading operations in March 2013.

In excess of 40 tanker loads of diluted pig slurry was spread on a field adjacent to the club’s mixed coarse fishery on sloping, semi-frozen, impermeable clay soil. The slurry ran off the field and into Willow Pool, contaminating the water and killing an estimated 1,000 fish or 70% of the total fish stock. The polluters paid out £7,067 to the angling club for their losses.

Cameron Hogg, Solicitor at Fish Legal acting for the Wellow Brook Fly Fishing Syndicate said: “Unfortunately, pollution claims involving escapes of farm waste presently make up a significant volume of Fish Legal lawyers’ caseloads. Farmers should be aware that failing to invest in and manage proper storage is a false economy given that our member clubs will come after them for compensation if their fisheries are polluted.”

Andrew Kelton, Fish Legal Solicitor acting for the Tarporley & District Angling Club said: “There is ample guidance especially for specialist contractors operating in a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone like this on how to manage spreading operations without causing pollution. There really is no excuse for polluting fisheries with slurry. Even though there was no prosecution in this case, when those undertaking farm-related activities do act irresponsibly we are confident that the cost of a civil claim against them will be a serious wake-up call to them and others”.

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust & Fish Legal said: “These cases are just two examples of the widespread mismanagement of slurry and other farm pollutants throughout England and Wales. Anglers and other water-users are bearing the brunt of a decade of under-investment, ‘light-touch’ regulation and government cuts to the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales. The government needs to get to grips with the slurry crisis, and fast.

"Luckily, these clubs were members of Fish Legal, and so we were able to secure them compensation for the damage they suffered, with the financial backing of all our other members.”

Additional notes:

(1) One Environment Agency officer referred to the incident as a “tsunami of slurry” and another said it was the worst pollution she had seen in 17 years in the area. The polluter admitted the release of 78,700 gallons of slurry. The Environment Agency estimated 150,000 gallons has escaped.

(2) Mr C Brunt / Brunt Partners were prosecuted by the Environment Agency and convicted by Bath Magistrates in December 2016, fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £4,245 costs for the April 2016 pollution for “causing or knowingly permitting a water discharge activity or groundwater activity” an offence under reg. 38(1)(b) of the Environmental Permitting (England & Wales) Regulations 2010. The farm’s milking parlour and farm yard washings which were leaking from a lagoon polluted a nearby watercourse. Rather than repair the leak, the farmers simply drained it to a neighbouring field, risking further pollution.

(3) New legislation came into force in April 2018 which introduces offences for mismanagement of manure and fertiliser. The Reduction and Prevention of Agricultural Diffuse Pollution (England) Regulations 2018 set out how slurry should be stored and applied to land in a way that minimises the risk of water pollution.

Contact: Fish Legal - Eastwood House | 6 Rainbow Street | Leominster | HR6 8DQ | Tel: 01568 620447

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