Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Farmer accused of removing drystone dykes in Fife

Pitlochie Farm Image copyright Google

A Fife farmer is being investigated by the Scottish government after being accused of "industrial-scale environmental damage".

James Orr is accused of removing six miles of drystone dykes at Pitlochie Farm, Strathmiglo, prompting fears for wildlife and flooding.

It is understood that by removing walls to create fewer but larger fields, it is quicker to harvest the area.

Mr Orr could lose his taxpayer-funded support scheme payment.

He was unavailable for comment at his 700 acre farm.

'Morally wrong'

Andrew Craig, from a neighbouring farm, said: "The industrial-scale environmental destruction wrought on the natural heritage and local biodiversity is appalling.

"The rural fabric of this attractive part of the countryside has been decimated, leaving a sterile prairie devoid of any wildlife, which is morally wrong.

"Surely farmers have a responsibility to maintain and improve the biodiversity and rural environment rather than ripping it apart, after all they are paid subsidies funded by the taxpayer, and therefore must have a wider duty of care to uphold."

Image copyright Other
Image caption The red lines show where the walls were removed

North East Fife MSP Willie Rennie said: "Ripping out walls damages local diversity and will change the local landscape forever unless action is taken to stop this vandalism.

"The walls are a haven for a variety of wildlife and they play an important role in the prevention of flooding.

"It's created a massive prairie which is not fitting for the north east Fife landscape in the Eden River Valley."

'Flagrant abuse'

He added: "We need the government to act which is why I have taken up directly with the rural affairs secretary. I want the walls to be reinstated and for a fine to be imposed too.

"A small penalty will be insufficient and would not reflect the level of damage. Local farmers are outraged by this flagrant abuse of the rules."

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: "The Scottish government rural payments and inspections division is aware of the issue and the circumstances are being fully investigated and considered.

"We do not tolerate breaches that cause permanent harm to our landscape and the environment, and which also damage the reputation of the Scottish agricultural industry, such as the removal of drystone dykes.

"Common agricultural policy cross-compliance regulations are in place to help provide protection under a range of provisions, including environmental protection, public and animal health, animal welfare and protection of water.

"We place high importance on these provisions and expect farmers and land managers to comply."

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