Multi-millionaire retailer illegally damaged SSSI by felling trees ‘to build track to his pheasant shoot’

Philip Day a wealthy Cumbrian businessman accused of turning picturesque woodland into a wasteland to build a track to his pheasant shoot has been ordered to pay out almost £1 million. Philip Day, who owns the Edinburgh Woollen Mill chain and is said to be as rich as the Queen, is the proprietor of Gelt Woods in Cumbria, where stones for Hadrian’s Wall were quarried almost 2,000 years ago.

Gelt Woods, near Brampton, Cumbria in Sept 2010 and (right) after the site was damaged

Gelt Woods, near Brampton, Cumbria in September 2010 and (right) after the site was damaged in November 2010 Photo: Natural England

In November 2010, trees were felled on the slopes of the site where the river cuts a gorge through the sandstone, and land was excavated to make a “significant” track.

The 72-acre plot of land is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and protected by multiple conservation orders.

 Before the illegal felling it was sheltered by birch, oak, and alder trees, while mosses and liverworts thrived on the damp sandstone outcrops. The glade was also home to a variety of birds, including pied flycatchers, redstarts and wood warblers.

Day, 47, told a court he did not know the felling work was to be carried out and had not authorised it.

But because allowing unauthorised work on a site of special scientific interest is a “strict liability” offence, he pleaded guilty at Carlisle Crown Court to two charges and was fined £450,000 with £457,000 full costs.

According to prosecutors, the trees were cut down to create a track allowing access to the riverside land for shooting.

Day’s defence lawyers denied this, saying there had been a landslip and the felling was necessary to make the riverbank safe.

Judge Peter Hughes QC said the multi-millionaire retailer had been “grossly negligent” over the work, which severely damaged protected flora in the ancient woodland.

He also criticised Day’s defence for “seeking to use the power of his wealth to avoid responsibility,” which had rebounded to his “lasting disgrace”.

Day’s £300m estimated fortune ranks him 277th in The Sunday Times Rich List.

His home at Edmond Castle, a 19th century Tudor-style country pile near the small market town of Brampton, is just a mile away.

The Gelt Woods site is an RSPB nature reserve, and cliffs there still bear the marks of Roman stonemasons who worked during the building of Hadrian’s Wall in around 122AD.

George Laurence QC, mitigating, said Day had neither known about nor authorised the felling that caused the damage, and the prosecution had accepted this.

The court also heard Day had already begun to repair the damage.

But the judge, who took court officials and legal teams to the woods to examine the scene for himself, said fines had to reflect legitimate public concern about the protection of conservation areas.

After the hearing Janette Ward, regulation director for Natural England, which brought the prosecution said: “Legal action is always regrettable and we were disappointed that a woodland of such ecological importance and one that was very special to the local community was so severely damaged

“We welcome the fact that Mr Day has undertaken a programme of voluntary restoration and hope that he will now work with us to manage this special area more appropriately in the future.”

A spokesman for Day insisted he was “passionate about the countryside and committed to conservation.”

He said: “As acknowledged by the judge in this case, Philip Day did not deliberately set out to damage a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

“He was shocked to find that damage had been caused to the site by contractors.

“As soon as he became aware of this, he worked closely with Natural England to carry out a full restoration programme, which was completed over two years ago.

“Mr Day intends to appeal against the sentence. The fine is nine times the amount imposed for previous similar offences.”

Footnote.

It seem there are rules some wealthy land owners, but the same rules do not apply to others who have also damaged SSSI’s. We are talking about Natural England’s failure to prosecute the Walshaw Moor Estate near Hebden Bridge for detroying Blanket Bog. After much investigation undertaken by Natural England into the damage caused to this important SSSI in West Yorkshire, Natural England decided to drop all 43 charges againt the estate much to the surprise of the RSPB. The matter was then refetered to the European Commision for investigation. http://raptorpolitics.org.uk/2012/10/14/rspb-seeks-european-investigation-after-failure-to-protect-uk-wildlife-site/

3 comments to Multi-millionaire retailer illegally damaged SSSI by felling trees ‘to build track to his pheasant shoot’

  • Circus maxima

    There is one hundred acres of harrier european protected site destroyed in Ayrshire by coal mining…..company has gone bust so nobody is responsible…wonder what the EU is going to say?

  • paul williams

    Thieves stole £1.8 million from Lincs farms
    http://www.grimsbytelegraph.co.uk
    A total of £1.8 million worth of equipment was stolen from farms in Lincolnshire last year.Agriculture industry insurer NFU Mutual revealed the county had the third highest level of…

  • paul williams

    We at the NWRPG are ever vigilant and will report anything we see of a suspicious nature to the police.