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Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) conviction: Caeau Blaen-Yr-Orfa Site of Special Scientific Interest, Gorslas near Crosshands, Carmarthenshire

A man was sentenced on Friday 8th February 2013, at Llanelli Magistrates Court having pleaded guilty, at an earlier hearing, to two offences under Part II of the Wildlife and Countryside Act1981.

The case related to unconsented works being undertaken at the Caeau Blaen-Yr-Orfa SSSI, at Gorslas near Crosshands in Carmarthenshire.  William Joseph McDonald, 75yrs old, from the Newport, Gwent area, was found to have undertaken operations likely to damage the scientific interest of the site, when officials from the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW), Welsh Government Natural Environment and Agricultural Team and police officers visited a nearby site on the 14th April 2011. Evidence was witnessed of scrub clearance using a mechanical excavator and tree cutting resulting in the semi-natural grassland habitats being damaged to the extent that CCW had to instigate legal proceedings in an attempt to get a restoration order placed on Mr McDonald to manage the site accordingly.

Having pleaded guilty on the 12th November 2012 the case was adjourned for sentencing with a Restoration Order being placed on Mr McDonald, £1,000 fine on each charge, costs of £3,500 and a Victim Surcharge of £15. Mr McDonald will also have to cover his owns legal costs. The estimated cost of the Restoration Order is set at £6,500.

Sgt Matthew Howells, of the Dyfed Powys Police who is seconded to the Countryside Council of Wales said, “The Countryside Council for Wales aims to work with land owners and tenants to ensure that Sites of Special Scientific Interest are managed to ensure that the features of sites are maintained. However in cases where a total disregard of management objectives and breaches of the law are found we will take action. Legislation is there to protect the environment and it will be used to ensure that our natural habitats are protected.”

The resulting financial costs on the defendant are in the region of £12,000 plus his own legal expenses. Sgt Howells also said, “It is only as a last resort that CCW will take legal action and even then when the Crown Prosecution Service determine that there is a case to answer. As can be seen from the fines and legal costs in this case it is in the best interest of those parties concerned to work with the CCW. This case should be used to deter others form falling foul of the law. CCW will always welcome enquiries from land owners and tenants seeking advice on how to manage SSSI land. Management of SSSI will continue under the new environment body Natural Resources Wales, so I would urge those that manage SSSI to consult your nearest CCW/NRW office before undertaking any work.”