S D Cameron pled guilty at Inverness Sheriff Court yesterday (2 August) to carrying out engineering works at the Belladrum Burn, without authorisation under the Water Environment Regulations 2005.

The works by S D Cameron included widening of the burn by removing sediment such as stones, gravel and sand, which resulted in large quantities of sediment being deposited in river water causing discolouration in the Belladrum Burn and River Beauly.

The Scottish Environment Agency (SEPA) was alerted about the works on 28 July 2010 and SEPA officers issued an enforcement order instructing SD Cameron to stop work immediately, and until further notice, to prevent further damage to the water and environment.

A sediment trap had been built in the burn by S D Cameron using geotextile fabric fixed to timber posts. However the trap had failed and was allowing water to pass around the side of the structure eroding the bank of the burn and carrying suspended sediment downstream into the river.

According to the SEPA officers, the sediment trap provided an inadequate pollution prevention measure as the impounded sediment could cause significant downstream damage.

Investigating officer for SEPA, Peter Watson, said: “The work carried out on the Belladrum Burn had a significant impact on the water environment. The burn had been substantially deepened, the armour layer that forms the bed of the burn had been removed and habitat lost.

“Had the work not been stopped and remediation works carried out the burn would have continued to erode its channel working its way back upstream in an attempt to naturally recover from the works. This could have resulted in the banks of the burn becoming unstable and possibly in an increased risk of flooding.”

Mr Watson added that S D Cameron was aware of its legal obligation to obtain a license from SEPA before carrying out the work.

He said: “By not ensuring that such a licence was in place, before beginning work, they prevented SEPA from undertaking an assessment of the risks and imposing conditions which would have prevented a significant impact on the water environment.”

Carys Matthews

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