A LANDOWNER who ran an illegal scrap metal dealership on a Site of Special Scientific Interest is now almost £35,000 out of pocket.

Christopher Ball, trading as C Ball and Sons, was fined £3,600 at Basingstoke Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to conducting unauthorised operations likely to damage the site.

As well as receiving the fine, he was also ordered to pay £30,000 in costs.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) are protected for their value to wildlife.

Ball, who bought a meadow on the Odiham Common with Bagwell Green and Shaw SSSI in 2014, was prosecuted by Natural England after failing to notify it of his plans to undertake activity that is restricted on the sensitive wildlife-rich site.

Site inspections revealed vehicles, vehicle parts and tyres, construction waste, pallets, felled branches and a bonfire site were all present, and vehicle fluids were leaking into the soil.

Natural England has since taken action to clear the site.

The SSSI comprises nearly 130 hectares – big enough to house about 130 football pitches – of wood pasture, rare grassland habitats, meadows and common land at the junction of the London Clay, Plateau Gravel and Lower Bagshot Beds on the edge of the Thames Basin.

The Common was formerly used by Edward the Confessor as a hunting ground before being developed into the land which is seen today.

The site is home to 39 ancient woodland species such as woodruff, early purple orchid, wood spurge and Solomon’s-seal, as well as nationally-rare deadwood invertebrates, reptiles, and birds such as woodcock and wood warbler.

Following the hearing, Andrew Smith, manager for Natural England’s Thames Solent area, felt the decision gave a clear message not to abuse the protected status of SSSI land.

“It is alarming to see a landowner showing such complete disregard for a protected site in their care. I am pleased this responsibility has been recognised by the courts,” he said.

“When we find cases of damage, such as this, we will take enforcement action and, if necessary, prosecute.

“We take our role as a regulator seriously. Our aim now is to work with the owner to re-establish the site and avoid damage to the SSSI in future.”