Natural England (NE) accused Wemmergill estate in Teesside, owned by entrepreneur Michael Cannon, of damaging a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

On 28 January, Wemmergill Moor Ltd was charged under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act and hit with a £50,000 fine, a legal bill for £237,500 and ordered to carry out an estimated £220,000 of restoration work to return the moor to its former condition.

In a statement to Shooting Times, a spokesman for the estate said: “Wemmergill Moor Ltd accepts the outcome of the proceedings before Durham Crown Court. [We] recognise that a small element of work within the restoration programme was inappropriately allocated to construction rather than maintenance, and have pleaded guilty to three charges.”

On the 28-square-mile Wemmergill estate, about 12 miles of track has been repaired and upgraded as part of the restoration programme. The section of track at the centre of the row is just half a mile long.

Originally NE allowed tracks to ensure all parts of the estate were accessible for conservation purposes. NE claimed that the track which prompted the legal action was not covered by the agreement. The estate was initially charged in relation to two sections of track, but it was argued that the work carried out to the second section was maintenance rather than construction and NE agreed not to pursue this point further.

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