THE owner of a caravan park in Paignton has vowed to rebuild the reputation of his business after it was fined £20,000 for polluting a tributary of the River Dart with sewage.
Martin Willett is spending almost half a million pounds redeveloping Falcon and Hillside Park on the Totnes Road.
It follows a prosecution brought by the Environment Agency.
Magistrates in Torquay were told in 2011 pollution of Longcombe stream was so bad cattle belonging to a local farmer refused to drink from it.
The park continued to discharge poor quality sewage effluent into the stream despite repeated requests from the Environment Agency to improve the site's sewage treatment plant.
There was a previous permission, known as a 'consent', to discharge treated sewage effluent into the Longcombe stream which flows across farmland down to the River Dart near Totnes.
In 2008 the owners of the site, Hatchmere Park Ltd, were warned by the Environment Agency the treatment plant was not operating properly and was causing pollution.
In 2009 and 2010 the agency took a series of formal effluent samples to monitor the performance of the park's sewage treatment works.
All four samples failed including one 'massive' failure.
In October 2009 an agency officer once again saw evidence of poor maintenance.
A ditch close to the effluent discharge point was 'black and putrid' and there was a thick accumulation of brown sewage sludge at the point where the ditch joined the Longcombe stream.
The environment agency says sewage-related debris was visible around the discharge pipe.
The agency issued Hatchmere Park with an 'Anti-Pollution Works Notices' to encourage the company to carry out the necessary improvements.
But by October 2011 the Environment Agency said there had been no improvement in the performance of the sewage treatment plant.
It said sewage fungus, a sign of chronic pollution, was clearly visible in the stream.
Pete Ball, for the agency, said: "Inaction on the part of the site operator resulted in continued illegal discharges of sewage into a rural stream. In the end we were left with no choice other than to prosecute."
Hatchmere Park Ltd, of Nottingham Road, Sedgebrook, Grantham, Lincolnshire, was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £13,089 costs after pleading guilty to three offences of discharging without a permit and non-compliance with two notices.
Magistrates also ordered the company to carry out improvements works by March 31, 2013.
Mr Willett said he took over the running of the site four months ago and had hoped to avoid being held responsible for the pollution.
He admits that move has 'backfired'.
But he says he will continue building new roads, street lights, walls, landscaping, paths and the sewage plant itself as part of a major refurbishment.
"The park is now under new management," he said.
"We have done an unbelievable amount of redevelopment and maintenance work since taking over."
He has already spent £150,000 on the site and will spend more than £400,000 in total.