Tycoon turns Woodland where Hadrian's Wall was quarried into wasteland

Zardoz tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Fri Aug 2 12:17:49 BST 2013

Tycoon worth £300m who turned woodland where Hadrian's Wall was quarried into wasteland to improve route to his pheasant shoot fined £450,000
Philip Day, 47, lives in a castle and owns Edinburgh Woollen Mill chain 
He allowed trees to be felled on land where he has a pheasant shoot
His work severely damaged protected flora in the ancient woodland
Gelt Woods cliffs still bear marks of Roman stonemasons from 122AD

By Mark Duell

PUBLISHED: 17:47, 1 August 2013 | UPDATED: 08:11, 2 August 2013 

A tycoon who turned an ancient woodland into a wasteland has been ordered to pay almost £1million.

Philip Day, who is said to be as wealthy as the Queen, allowed workmen to decimate the beauty spot so a vehicle track could be built to his pheasant shoot.

A huge swathe was cut through picturesque Gelt Woods in Cumbria,  flattening trees, churning up soil and  disturbing wildlife.

Wasteland: Philip Day, whose £300million estimated fortune ranks him 277th in The Sunday Times Rich List, admitted two counts of damaging Gelt Woods, a 72-acre Site of Special Scientific Interest in Cumbria

Tycoon: Philip Day, 47, who lives at Edmond Castle in Cumbria, owns the Edinburgh Woollen Mill chain and is said to be as wealthy as the Queen, allowed trees to be felled on land where he has the shoot

Heritage: The court heard Gelt Woods is one of the county's finest conservation sites, featuring birch, oak, and alder trees, damp sandstone outcrops where mosses and liverworts thrive

Before the illegal felling, the area was sheltered by birch and oak trees. Mosses and liverworts grew on sandstone outcrops and birds such as pied flycatchers, redstarts and wood warblers thrived.

But by the time Mr Day's workmen had finished, the landscape – which provided stones for Hadrian's Wall – was a scarred scene of destruction. 

The 47-year-old, who owns the Edinburgh Woollen Mill chain and is worth around £300million, told a court he did not know the work was to be carried out and had not authorised it.

Hadrian's Wall, which stretches across northern England, was built in 122 AD on the orders of the Roman emperor Hadrian to mark his empire's northern frontier.

It took eight years to build 
the 73 mile-long wall from 
the Solway Firth to 
Wallsend on the Tyne.

It is believed to have provided a barrier between Roman Britain and Scotland and is thought to have been where the army could determine who was allowed access to the empire.

It remained in use until the early fifth century when, with the empire collapsing and the city of Rome itself under threat, the Romans left British shores. It is the largest monument from the ancient era in northern Europe and is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

But because he had allowed it to happen at the site of special scientific interest, he pleaded guilty to two charges of letting unauthorised work be carried out.

He was fined £450,000 and ordered to pay legal costs of £457,000 when he appeared at Carlisle Crown Court.

Judge Peter Hughes QC said the multi-millionaire had been `grossly negligent' over the work, which severely damaged protected flora in the ancient woodland.

Judge Hughes also criticised the businessman's defence for `seeking to use the power of his wealth to avoid responsibility' and which had rebounded to his `lasting disgrace'.

Day, whose fortune ranks him at 277th in The Sunday Times Rich List, lives at Edmond Castle, a 19th  century mansion near the Cumbrian market town of Brampton.

The son of a newsagent, he is a self-made man who grew up on a Manchester council estate.

He has previously been criticised for his handling of the 72-acre woods, which he bought in 2010.

He angered townsfolk when he told a parish council meeting that, while 6,500 young pheasants had been released into the wood ready for shooting, 12,000 would be more appropriate for an area of that size.

He also said: `We don't have to come up with replanting schemes if we don't want to. We own the woods, we can please ourselves.'

Impressive residence: Hayton Hall, Day's home at Edmond Castle, a 19th century Tudor-style country pile near the small market town of Brampton, is just a mile away

Locals complained on internet forums about the woodlands being destroyed.

One wrote: `I have seen these woods turned from their beautiful appearance, to what can be described as a farm.

`Heavy machinery, no less than four diggers, three tractors and a host of 4x4s have been driven around the wood.'

The court was told that in November 2010, trees were felled and land was excavated to make a `significant' track.

In his defence, George Laurence QC, said Day had neither known about nor authorised the work, and the prosecution had accepted this. The court also heard Day had already begun to repair the damage.

Famous structure: The cliffs at Gelt Woods still bear the marks of Roman stonemasons who worked during the building of Hadrian's Wall (pictured) in around 122AD

The judge – who took court officials and legal teams to the woods to examine the scene – said the fine had to reflect legitimate public concern about the protection of conservation areas.

After the hearing, Janette Ward, of Natural England, which brought the prosecution against Day, said: `Legal action is always regrettable, and we were disappointed that a woodland of such ecological importance, and one that is very special to the local community, was so severely damaged.'

A spokesman for Day said after the hearing: 'As acknowledged by the judge in this case, Philip Day did not deliberately set out to damage a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

'Mr Day is passionate about the countryside and committed to conservation. He was shocked to find that damage had been caused to the site by contractors. 

'As soon as he became aware of this, he worked closely with Natural England to carry out a full restoration programme, which was completed over two years ago.

'Mr Day intends to appeal against the sentence. The fine is nine times the amount imposed for previous similar offences.'

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