Pollution costs York farmer £10,000


Oswaldkirk farmer Ian Armitage (67) was yesterday (29th November, 2007) fined £7,000 plus costs by York Magistrates after pleading guilty to allowing manure-contaminated water to pollute a three kilometre stretch of the River Holbeck at Stonegrave.

The charge related to long term pollution of the Holbeck and one of its tributaries between February 2 and April 5, 2006, which Environment Agency officers traced back to Birch Farm at Stonegrave. However, a similar incident was recorded in February 2007 while the first offence was being investigated.

Mr Armitage of Leysthorpe Hall, Leysthorpe, Oswaldkirk, York - who owns Birch Farm - pleaded guilty to the 2006 charges and asked for the 2007 offence to be taken into consideration. He was fined £7,000 after being told by the Magistrates that they had originally considered a fine of £9,000, but had reduced it by £2,000 to give him credit for pleading guilty – and told to pay the full prosecution costs of £2,927.54.

The court heard from prosecutor Paul Harley that Birch Farm lacked any waste management system, and did not comply with agricultural best practice. Mr Armitage’s failure to deal with the problems identified in the past had allowed water contaminated with cow manure to leak from drainage systems and enter the natural watercourses, causing a bloom of sewage fungus which covered the entire bed of the River Holbeck. He said that the Environment Agency had had to advise Mr Armitage as far back as 1998, and again in 2004, about the correct way to deal with manure at Birch Farm and he did not appear to have taken heed of that advice.

“ The scale of the fine indicates how serious the initial offence was and the Magistrates’ view of the second pollution incident earlier this year. Sewage fungus suffocates plant and insect life which removes oxygen from the water, meaning that no fish were able to survive in that stretch of the river, “ said Peter Stevenson, Environment Management Team Leader.

In mitigation, the court heard that Mr Armitage was very sorry for causing the pollution and although he had never had any problems arising from beef industry inspections, he had recently spent more than £20,000 on improvements at Birch Farm to ensure pollution wouldn’t happen again.