A farmer has voiced his distress at the ’bullying’ tactics employed by consultants carrying out unauthorised preparatory work for a major water company on his land.
Tom Jackson, who farms in Accrington, Lancashire, was initially in favour of United Utilities’ Haweswater Aqueduct project, which involves replacing underground tunnels supplying drinking water to 2.5 million customers in Cumbria, Lancashire and Greater Manchester.
But he said contractors employed by the water company trespassed on his land several times and caused damage.
One incident last month saw an intrusion to Tag Clough, a Biological Heritage Site covered by a Tree Preservation Order. He said contractors damaged the root bole of an oak tree to ‘such an extent that it will die’.
Mr Jackson said: “They think they are above the law and use trespass as an item of policy.
“They consistently behave in an arrogant manner and do not communicate.
“They then turn to denial and threats and it is wrong of United Utilities to condone such behaviour.
“I am 72 years old. I should not have to fight this battle and cannot get to sleep at night.”
In a letter to Mr Jackson seen by Farmers Guardian, United Utilities chairman, Sir David Higgins, said he was ‘sorry to read about [Mr Jackson’s] recent experiences and the upset and inconvenience that we have caused you whilst working on site’.
Sir David Higgins wrote: “We have strict protocols and codes of practices that we are required to follow when undertaking any work on third-party land. I am disappointed to hear that this has not been your experience on this occasion and we are thoroughly investigating this matter with our consulting agents."
Sir David added any access or changes to Mr Jackson’s land to facilitate United Utilities’ work would be discussed and agreed with Mr Jackson in advance of any activities.
A United Utilities spokesperson said: “We are aware of this matter and our insurance team is currently liaising with Mr Jackson’s land agent.”