Page last updated at 16:10 GMT, Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Fishery worker fined over River Earn pollution

Richard Philp
Perth Sheriff Court heard that Richard Philp is now working as a plumber

The man who caused one of Scotland's worst environmental disasters by trying to turn a reservoir into a private fishing pond has been fined £9,000.

Contractor Richard Philp, 50, was fined after a court heard tonnes of soil polluted a 15km stretch of the River Earn.

The same pollution charge against Paul Thwaites, the property tycoon who hired Philp to do the work, was dropped.

The work was done at Whitehouse of Dunira Estate in Perthshire in March.

Mr Thwaites, 55, from Barton in Cambridge, and his contractor, who is from Milnathort near Kinross, were both charged in connection with the worst pollution incident ever recorded by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa).

Perth MSP Roseanna Cunningham attacked the Crown's decision to let Mr Thwaites walk away from the incident without any explanation.

This is one of the worst incidents Sepa officers in Perth have dealt with
Janine Bates
Fiscal depute

"His desire for a private playground has destroyed the fishing for miles around - possibly for generations - but he has been able to walk away from the estate, from the charges and from any responsibility for the environmental damage caused," she said.

"Mr Philp, the contractor, made a massive mistake. He has acknowledged it and he has paid for it.

"I just wish Mr Thwaites would do the same and recognise his moral responsibility for helping to put right the damage that has been done."

Philp admitted carrying out a controlled activity likely to cause pollution to the water environment on 17 and 18 March last year.

Perth Sheriff Court heard that a sub-contractor had smashed through the disused reservoir wall with a digger and caused the water to empty into a tributary and the River Earn.

As a result, 1,000 tonnes of silt poured into the fresh water and destroyed vital spawning grounds for brown trout, sea trout and salmon.

Estate sold

The court heard that the full scale of the ecological impact would not be known for several years, but whole generations of fish could be lost as a direct result.

Fiscal depute Janine Bates said: "As a result of the silt entering the water course, substantial damage was caused to recently spawned salmonoids and other marine life.

"The eggs were vulnerable to suspended solids pollution. The smothering of them will have impacted on future numbers. The silt was released into the river at a critical time in the life cycle of the salmonoids.

"The reservoir had been drained of water. The ecology had been severely affected. This is one of the worst incidents Sepa officers in Perth have dealt with."

Ms Bates told the court that Philp had formerly been a fishery manager and had set himself up as a consultant.

The disaster at Whitehouse of Dunira Estate was his first job. The court was told it was also his last, as he was now working as a plumber.

Mr Thwaites has since sold the estate and was unavailable for comment.

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