Farmer fined for plowing protected Iron Age remains
A farmer who plowed protected Iron Age remains has been ordered to pay Â£ 31,500 in fines and costs.
Andrew Cooper defied a stop order issued by Natural England after experts found evidence of nationally significant archaeological remains on the ground.
He used heavy plowing equipment on the fields of Baggy Point in North Devon, where large numbers of flint and other remains of the Iron Age had already been found.
The land is also historically significant as a training area used by US troops before D-Day and the old trenches were also in danger of being lost.
Cooper, 62, leased the land to the National Trust for 30 years and said he never mentioned the prehistoric remains or told him not to plow and graze the 170 acres.
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A judge has asked the National Trust to review its lease and has suggested its repeated disregard for conservation laws is not in line with their objectives.
Cooper left the two fields uncultivated for years when he claimed grants, but abandoned that program in 2012.
Natural England asked him to do an environmental assessment before using the land, but he did not.
He challenged the designation of the land by Natural England and appealed a series of reparation orders, but all were rejected by the High Court or DEFRA.
Natural England issued a stop notice in October 2017, but Cooper ignored it and has plowed or grazed the fields several times since.
Cooper, 62, of Croyde Hoe Farm near Braunton, admitted breaking a notice of arrest and was fined Â£ 7,500 and Â£ 24,000 in costs by Judge Peter Johnson at Exeter Crown Court.
He told her, âThis was a willful and flagrant violation of the law, the accused knowing exactly what he was doing. He showed no remorse.
âThere is a history of non-compliance, of repeated incidents, and it was clearly done for financial gain. The notice is still in effect and if it is not followed, there will be further proceedings and you will face bankruptcy. “
The judge said it was remarkable that the National Trust did not exercise more control over a tenant who repeatedly broke the law.
He said he would have considered jail time if the law allowed it and described the Â£ 300,000 costs of the case as mind-boggling, but that Cooper could only afford to pay a fraction of that .
He ordered him to serve five months in prison by default if he did not pay the fine by October 21.
Mr Bernard Thorogood, prosecutor, said four fields on the farm are considered to be of national importance because of their Iron Age history and their connection to D-Day.
Large numbers of flint have been found in previous studies, which identified Baggy Point as a likely center of toolmaking and a possible site of a fort dating from the Middle Mesolithic period of 8,000 to 4,000. 000 BC
More than 2,000 flints were recovered from just one of the deposits in 1992.
An archaeological report indicated that there was an immediate danger of objects destroyed by the use of modern heavy plows or the grazing of sheep or cattle in wet conditions.
The area was used by US troops training for D-Day and contains remnants of split trenches used in mock battles. There is also a pillbox in which Alfred A Augustine, 24, GI of Pennsylvania carved his name a few weeks before his death at Omaha Beach on June 6.
Mr Thorogood said the stop notice was only issued after four years of efforts to secure voluntary cooperation and a number of reparation orders had failed.
He said Cooper had received Â£ 331,000 in government grants in recent years.
Cooper said he made little to no profit and his accounts last year showed a surplus of just Â£ 24. All his property is tied to his cattle.
He said the land was owned by the National Trust and neither they nor Historic England had ever said anything about the Iron Age remaining there.
He said the idea of ââcontaining an Iron Age fort was a fantasy
He said the original designation of the land as pasture was incorrect as it was listed as cropland in 2012.