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Edinburgh Woollen Mill boss Philip Day fined over wood damage

image captionThe woodland, pictured in 2010 before the damage, was an important habitat
image captionProsecutors said trees were felled in order to make an access track for shooting

A tycoon has been ordered to pay almost £1m for damage caused to ancient woodland in Cumbria.

Philip Day, owner of the Edinburgh Woollen Mill chain, tried to use the "power of his wealth to avoid responsibility", a court heard.

He was fined £450,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of about £457,000 after admitting two counts of damaging Gelt Woods on his land near Brampton.

Day, 47, will appeal against the sentence, a spokesman said.

Trees were felled and land excavated in order to build an access track.

Day, whose firm has a turnover of £240m, had claimed the work was being carried out to make a riverbank safe after a landslip.

'Grossly negligent'

The Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is protected due its age and the form of gorge woodland, a type peculiar to north Cumbria and parts of Scotland.

Natural England brought the prosecution.

The woodland has become an important habitat for flora, fauna, insects and birds on the slopes around the banks of the River Gelt where the water has cut a rocky gorge through the sandstone.

Prosecutors at Carlisle Crown Court said the track was created in November 2010 to provide access for shooting.

Presiding Judge Peter Hughes QC, who gave his judgment at Carlisle Crown Court on Wednesday, said Day had been "grossly negligent" in relation to the works.

Janette Ward, Natural England's regulation director, said: "Legal action is always regrettable, and we were disappointed that a woodland of such ecological importance, and one that was very special to the local community, was so severely damaged."

A spokesman for Day said: "As acknowledged by the judge in this case, Philip Day did not deliberately set out to damage a SSSI.

"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."

The spokesman added that a full restoration programme had been completed over two years ago and the fine was "nine times the amount imposed for previous similar offences".

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