Rare mussel at the centre of Shropshire land row
Members of a farming family have accused the Environment Agency of forcing them to give up land with no compensation – and fining them when they refused.
The row has broken out over steps taken by the government body to protect the rare fresh water pearl mussel, in the River Clun.
The agency ordered the Thomas family, of Bryndraenog Farm, near Clun, to fence off an acre of their land to keep their cattle away from the River Unk, which feeds into the River Clun.
The Environment Agency (EA) wants to keep the river from silting up with eroded soil and animal waste, which can kill the mussels.
But father and son Chris and David Thomas refused and were fined £13,000. They have now lodged an appeal.
Chris Thomas, 71, said: "If they think they're going to take this land off us to carry out their experiments, they've got another thing coming.
"They're asking for about £10,000 of land on the river side. They don't want it for 12 months, they want it for all time, and it's making land on the other side of the river inaccessible for us, too.
"If the EA wish to confiscate a farmer's land and put it permanently out of agricultural production to create the artificial habitat then they must pay the going rate for it," he said.
David Thomas pleaded guilty to not complying with the notice to put up a fence at the farm in Dutlas, on the banks of the River Unk. The move resulted in "polluting matter" from the cattle that could harm the mussels entering the water course, the EA said.
Chris Thomas said: "It's not as if we've got a factory here. There have been grazing animals on this land for 100 years, and that's all we've been doing. We know of other farmers who are also in the firing line on this matter. We need to stand together."
But a spokeswoman for the EA, said the River Clun is one of the few remaining sites where the pearl mussels can still be found, with failure to act to protect them putting them at risk of proceedings from the EU.
She said: "We have offered to install fencing at no cost to Mr Thomas to resolve the issue and advice on other potential solutions.
"The work was not carried out and after a year of negotiations the EA was left with no choice but to serve a Notice for the work and take court proceedings when he failed to comply."
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