A farmer jailed for bulldozing a riverside beauty spot to protect a village from flooding has been sent back to prison after failing to overturn his sentence.
John Price, 68, was sentenced to 12 months after he used an 18-tonne digger to dredge a one-mile section of the River Lugg near Leominster, Herefordshire.
Today, the multi-millionaire farmer appeared at Worcester Crown Court to hear his sentence reduced from 12 to 10 months following an appeal.
But Judge Nicholas Cole told Price he was not satisfied that a suspended sentence could be justified due to his “outrageous” and “persistent” behaviour.
He said there was no justification for Price’s illegal actions, having acted in a “selfish and ignorant” manner as he “blatantly disregarded the law”.
Judge Cole said it was clear from character references that Price, who has assets worth more than £20 million, was held in high regard and ran a successful farm.
However, he pointed out that Price’s previous convictions for similar environmental offences meant that he should not be treated as a man of good character.
Judge Cole said only a sentence of immediate custody was appropriate for the damage he had caused.
“Only such a sentence will provide appropriate punishment. You will serve up to half of your sentence,” he said.
‘Devastating’ for wildlife habitats
A court heard previously how Price had stripped a mile-long stretch of a bank of trees, destroying the habitats of otters, salmon, trout and kingfishers.
Price, the owner of land at either side of the river, hired bulldozers and diggers to essentially turn a “traditional tree-lined river into a canal”.
Environmentalists – including Monty Don, the host of BBC Gardeners’ World host – expressed their shock at the “complete obliteration” of the site.
A judge told Price he had committed “ecological vandalism on an industrial scale” along a stretch of one of Britain’s most important salmon rivers.
Natural England said it could take several decades for the habitats to be fully restored, while the Environment Agency said the damage was one of the worst cases of riverside destruction it had ever seen, leading to a “devastating” effect on local wildlife.
Mr Price had claimed he acted in December 2020 to protect locals in the nearby hamlet whose homes had been devastated by previous floods.
But he was jailed for a year and ordered to pay costs of £600,0000 after being found guilty of seven charges of environmental damage last month.