DEFRA is taking a Rhododendron grower to court because he refuses to pay the £1,000 he owes for the disposal of his Phytophthora ramorum infected stock.
Owner John Middleton of Shelley Common Nursery in Ower, Hampshire, said that he has lost over £60,000 of business because of the disease and DEFRA is worsening matters by threatening to prosecute after a year of arguments.
He said: “I am willing to go the whole hog. I have never been to court before. DEFRA is trying to turn me into a criminal because I’m being responsible. If this is based on any sense of justice, I should win hands down. This is nothing to do with plant health. It’s to do with protecting the environment.”
He says he is being environmentally responsible by refusing to bury his infected stock because it is in a wood and close to the New Forest and a tributary of the River Test.
He chose instead to have DEFRA plant health inspectors take away the material. “We’re not dealing with rotten potatoes; we’re dealing with healthy plants that have an organism on them,” he added.
A DEFRA representative said she could not comment on individual cases but added that it is the department’s policy to recover costs incurred and that “most people pay up with no problem”.
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