Reported on the BBC.

Plans to convert an overgrown reservoir into a private fishing pond for one of the UK's richest men sparked an ecological disaster, a court has heard.

Property mogul Paul Thwaites, 55, had hoped to create the private fishery on the Dunira Estate, in Perthshire.

However, contractor Richard Philp, 50, admitted inundating a tributary of the River Earn with silt after driving a digger through the reservoir wall.

Perth Sheriff Lindsay Foulis deferred sentence on Philp for reports.

The court heard the damage caused by the work led to one of the worst pollution incidents ever recorded by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa).

Philp, from Milnathort in Kinross, had worked as a fishery manager in the past and had set himself up as a consultant.

The whole loch was emptied into the river, carrying a whole lot of silt. He did it once, but will never go near a project of this nature again
John Bain, defending

He was hired by Mr Thwaites, whose £180m fortune ranks him the 397th richest person in the UK, to oversee the project to convert a reservoir on his £5.5m estate into a private fishery.

However, Philp had simply smashed through the reservoir wall with a digger and caused the water to empty into a tributary and then the River Earn in March last year.

As a result, a thousand tonnes of silt poured into the fresh water and destroyed vital spawning grounds for brown trout, sea trout and salmon. A total of 15 kilometres of river was affected.

The court was told that the full scale of the ecological impact would not be known for several years, but whole generations of fish might have been lost as a result.

Fiscal depute Janine Bates said: "The reservoir had been drained of water. The ecology had been severely affected. This is one of the worst incidents Sepa officers in Perth have dealt with."


Full report