Why Natural England was forced to bear the bulk of the cost of a SSSI prosecution

Why was Natural England only able to recoup 0.5% of the funds it spent pursuing a two-year investigation that led to a successful prosecution of a farmer who had laid a track through a protected site without the regulator’s consent? James Agyepong-Parsons investigates

On a mountain bike ride in Yorkshire on New Year’s Day in 2017, Natural England’s lead adviser for protected sites, Justine Nelson, noticed a newly-excavated track heading down into the ancient woodland of a protected site of special scientific interest (SSSI).

Details of Nelson’s discovery and the two-year investigation that followed are contained in an internal DEFRA group memo leaked to ENDS. The investigation led to a prosecution for Brian Eddon, a farmer from Pickering, who had illegally levelled a mire and built the track across one hectare of the Newtondale SSSI – a 925.5 hectare protected site valued for its post-glacial valley landscape comprising woodland, grassland, fen, valley mire and moorland edge.

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