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 £2,000 fines for taking water without a licence

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PostSubject: £2,000 fines for taking water without a licence   Fri Nov 18, 2011 2:22 pm

17-Nov-2011

On 16 November 2011, Christopher Drury, of Beltoft Grange Farm pleaded guilty at Scunthorpe Magistrates’ Court to abstracting water from a watercourse near Amcotts without a licence.

The 50-year-old was fined £2000 and ordered to pay £1944.83 in costs, along with a £15 victim surcharge.

The charge was brought under Section 24 of the Water Resources Act 1991. By law, if anyone wants to remove or abstract water from a surface source (e.g. river, stream or canal) or from an underground source and takes more than 20 cubic metres a day, they almost certainly need an abstraction licence.

In July 2010, Environment Agency Officers were alerted to the fact that water was being abstracted using a pump from a watercourse near Amcotts, causing a significant drop in water levels. The watercourse was a field drain used to irrigate a nearby potato field rented by Christopher Drury of Beltoft Grange Farm.

Measurements of the watercourse were taken on 9th July 2010. When comparing these measurements to the ‘high water mark’ it was found that the level had recently dropped by about 61cm.

The drop in water levels had affected wildlife in the watercourse. 15 dead perch and pike, along 100 metres of the field drain were found which had become stranded in shallow isolated pools. The drop in the water level led to high water temperatures and low oxygen levels, causing the fish deaths.

Mr Drury attended for interview under caution on 3rd August 2010. In the interview, Mr Drury accepted that there was no licence in place to abstract from the unnamed watercourse, however, he stated that he had acted under the mistaken belief that there was a licence in place held by another farmer, Mr Barker. It was clarified that Mr Drury stopped abstracting when he noticed the water level reducing rapidly, before he had finished irrigating his crop.

In mitigation, the defence explained that Mr Drury had been shown a black and white photocopy of Mr Barker’s abstraction licence, which meant he was unable to see which watercourses could be used for abstraction. The solicitor for Mr Drury also added that the farmer had contacted the previous landowners, who confirmed that they abstracted from this watercourse on numerous occasions. Unbeknown to Mr Drury, the Environment Agency had since blocked off this watercourse as a result of diseases entering the water. This meant that this watercourse could no longer be licenced for abstraction.

Speaking after the case, an Environment Agency officer in charge of the investigation said:

“Abstraction licences are there for a reason - they allow us to protect both water supplies and the environment. Unregulated abstraction could lead to water supply shortages, increases in river pollution by reducing dilution, damage to wildlife habitats and ultimately to the loss of rivers for all of us to use and enjoy.”


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