A COURT has been told it could cost nearly £700,000 to restore the river Lugg and its banks after a farmer bulldozed and reprofiled it.

Natural England and the Environment Agency launched joint legal action in response to what they said was damage in Kingsland, near Leominster, in 2020

John Pudge Price, of Day House Farm, had previously indicated guilty pleas to all seven charges surrounding work carried out between November 1 and December 3, 2020. He is due to be sentenced in less than two weeks.

When the case was back before District Judge Ian Strongman at Kidderminster Magistrates Court on Thursday, he was told it could cost £655,000, plus fees, to restore the river.

Hereford Times: The River Lugg after the work carried out by John PriceThe River Lugg after the work carried out by John Price

The site is alongside Lugg Green Road in Kingsland, the route between Mortimer Medical Practice and Bicton, and it was said the river had been reprofiled and trees grubbed, and the banks cleared of trees and vegetation.

The area is protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to its importance for nature. Consent is required before any works are carried out within a SSSI to the river which had not been granted.


Price, 68, previously appeared in court, indicating guilty pleas to charges relating to flood risk activity, discharging silt into the Lugg, failing to take reasonable steps to stop farming pollution and disturbing spawn or spawning fish.

Hereford Times: Environment Agency staff at the scene of the damage in December 2020Environment Agency staff at the scene of the damage in December 2020

He was also charged with damaging a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and in December 2021, a year on, he breached stop notice by removing material, desilting and re-profiling the river bank and removing bankside vegetation.


Once a basis of plea has been presented by Price's solicitor Adam Farrer, and prosecutors satisfied, the farmer will be sentenced in less than two weeks' time.

On Thursday, the court heard that Price believed the work was urgent and went ahead, despite not having the right permits to do so.

He had previously obtained permits to do the work, so Mr Farrer said it wasn't a case of not knowing the rules. Instead, he said it was "reckless".

He said Kingsland Parish Council had been looking at Price to carry the work out, with an informal meeting held between a local councillor and the Environment Agency before Price did the work.

According to prosecution barrister Bernard Thorogood, an "18-tonne bulldozer" was used. He told the court a restoration plan was being sought, with Mr Farrer saying Price had millions of pounds in capital assets but wanted a solution quickly as his health was suffering. 

Hereford Times: The River Lugg before the work John Price carried outThe River Lugg before the work John Price carried out

With Natural England and the Forestry Commission, the Environment Agency announced in December 2020 that it was carrying out a joint investigation into the loss of habitat along the one-mile stretch, which it said could lead to legal action.

In December 2020, Herefordshire Wildlife Trust said all bankside and riverside habitats had been “completely obliterated” after the river and its banks were “bulldozed, straightened and reprofiled into a sterile canal”.

A bulldozer was pictured in the river, believed to have been carrying out the work which outraged naturalists.

It led to agencies launching what they said was an in-depth investigation, with Price, 67, charged more than 15 months later.

In December 2020, Price told the Hereford Times he had looked after the river all his life and was only doing a job he was told to do.

He claimed the work he had done on the riverbanks was legal and was meant to save local homes from flooding.