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Aldbourne farmer fights to keep land

A farmer is fighting to keep land that has been in his family since 1865. Guy Wentworth, 73, who owns Ewins Hill Farm, Aldbourne, admitted he had disposed of waste without a permit at Salisbury Crown Court in March 2010.

He was given a 12-month suspended prison sentence and now faces a confiscation order. This will determine the value of the business carried out illegally.

If Mr Wentworth cannot afford to pay back this amount, which is yet to be fixed, he may have to give up his 55-acre farm. He said: “The farm has been in my family for generations. It was passed down to my grandfather by a great uncle because he didn’t have any children and I very much want to set up a trust to pass it on to my son, Jonathan. This is my home and it’s like my little bit of England but it’s being invaded by bureaucracy which has little to do with the countryside.”

“I find it very frustrating that the staff at the Environment Agency can put a value on the materials when they clearly have no understanding of the process. It has cost the a lot of money for this to go through court just because I want to improve my land.”

Mr Wentworth had been using part of his land as a recycling yard for building materials such as concrete and bricks since the early 1980s. Anything that could be reused was sold while any soil was used for land levelling on the farm.

Mr Wentworth said: “Wiltshire Council for Environmental Health approved the business because it was on a small scale and I was given an exemption certificate. “When the Environment Agency took over I was told I might need a permit rather than an exemption certificate. But I couldn’t get a definitive answer so I carried spreading waste on the ground for the benefit of agricultural improvement, with the exemption certificate.”

“I pleaded guilty to not having a licence on the advice of a solicitor and that’s my biggest regret because I think if I’d have gone in front of a jury they would have been more understanding.”

Mr Wentworth is to appear at Salisbury Crown Court next Thursday.

Steven Cave, the Environment Agency’s investigating officer, said: “By operating outside the law Mr Wentworth put the environment at risk. Thankfully in this case there was no proven environmental impact, although the potential for harm from this activity does exist.

“We were pleased the court recognised the gravity of Mr Wentworth’s wrongdoing and we hope that it sends out a clear message to those who think they can carry out illegal waste activities for profit or just because they think they can get away with flouting the law.”

The Environment Agency could not confirm its estimated value of the business while proceedings were ongoing.

Source: The Gazette & Herald - Anna Mauremootoo

Posted by: RB on 12th January 2013