A DEBATE has been sparked over a landowner's right to carry out work on his own land as the Environment Agency feared wrongdoing.

The EA confirmed it was investigating possible silt pollution and habitat destruction at Rackfield leat and millpond, Rockwell Green.

Residents have been up in arms following the work, which had potentially destroyed habitats and led to the pollution of a nearby stream.

A spokesman for the EA said: “We acknowledge the concerns of local people at the clearance of waterside vegetation by the landowner and disturbance to the leat and section of riverbank.

“The investigation will focus on possible silt pollution of the nearby Westford Stream, a tributary of the River Tone, and suspected habitat destruction of protected species."

But following an investigation, the EA has concluded the work was 'not as bad as it seemed'.

The spokesman added: "There was evidence silt had entered and nearby Westford Stream via the leat. The landowner has agreed to take active steps to prevent any more silt entering the leat from adjacent land.

"As the landowner, he is permitted to remove trees and other bankside vegetation, but requires the EA’s permission to use an excavator or any other piece of heavy equipment in a main river, ie the Westford Stream, to ensure no structural damage is caused to the riverbank.

"The landowner said he’d employed an ecologist to survey the site and they could find no evidence of protected species. The landowner also said he’d checked relevant wildlife registers. "The EA’s own biodiversity team could find no evidence of protected species, although at this time of the year it isn’t always easy to find signs of species such as water vole." Work from the landowner will include building a low bund on the bank to prevent silt being washed into the stream.

The spokesman added anyone who intends to carry out work in or close to a watercourse should first check with the EA to ensure they have all of the relevant permissions.