Mon, 18 Nov 2019
AN illegal dredging operation on the River Lambourn has resulted in no prosecution to date – almost 12 months on.
Last December, a mechanical digger was repeatedly used to scoop out the gravel bed of the waterway in East Garston.
That section of the waterway is winterbourne, which means it is dry in summer and floods in winter.
Action for the River Kennet (ARK) spokeswoman Charlotte Hitchmough said at the time: “We just can’t understand why anyone would do such a thing.
“The gravel beds have lots of plants, so invertebrates sink into it and emerge when the springs come, instantly providing a living habitat.
“Worse, all the silt will now wash downstream and clog up the gravel beds elsewhere, where fish eggs would have been.”
ARK has said the damage could have wiped out an entire year’s worth of plants and livestock.
The Environment Agency was notified and its inspectors visited the site.
Nevertheless, said local residents, the dredging continued – and some residents even took photographs of the apparent culprit at work.
Eventual remedial work by the taxpayer-funded agency was complicated by the discovery of deadly asbestos in the stream, although the agency has never announced whether that was due to the illegal dredging or not.
This week, agency spokesman Peter O’Connor said only that the investigation into the illegal operation “is continuing”.
According to the environmental campaign group Greenpeace, the number of prosecutions pursued by the agency has fallen in recent years, with 269 in 2013 dropping to fewer than 150 in 2017, and just 33 in the first half of this year.
This week, Ms Hitchmough said: “The Environment Agency have told us they have completed all remedial work.”
She said she had no information about any forthcoming prosecution, but stressed: “This issue is a matter of real public interest.
“It needs to be made known to people that dredging a chalk stream is not a good thing.”
The River Lambourn is one of England’s finest chalk streams, designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation and recognised as an internationally-important home for fish and plants.
As such, it enjoys the highest level of environmental protection.