NATURE charities will benefit after companies were asked to stump up cash following breaches in environmental regulations.

More than £190,000 will be paid to North East charities after the Environment Agency accepted four enforcement undertakings.

Northumbrian Water Ltd will pay £50,000 to Wear Rivers Trust as well as carrying out site restoration and remediation work and making improvements to its infrastructure and reporting mechanisms.

It follows a pollution incident at Wapping Burn at its confluence with Gore Burn near Peterlee, which happened in April 2016. An ecology survey found the pollution had caused a minor negative impact downstream of the discharge.

Northumbrian Water will also pay £135,000 split equally between Durham Wildlife Trust, Wear Rivers Trust and the Marine Conservation Society.

It follows a pollution incident in summer 2016, when a cracked sewer pipe crossing a stream behind Aykley Heads, in Durham, caused pollution downstream.

Northumbrian Water has since repaired that whole length of sewer pipe.

Dairy farmer Alan Newton, 54, from Gibbet Hills Farm in Howden-le-Wear, near Crook, has paid £7,842 to Wear Rivers Trust and made improvements to his site and infrastructure.

This follows a discharge of slurry in November 2017, which affected more than 3km of Beechburn Beck. Once advised about the leak, Mr Newton instantly to rectify.

And M&K Hodgson Limited, which operates pig farm Handale Banks Farm at Liverton, near Loftus, will pay £5,300 to Tees Rivers Trust after slurry spread at the farm got into Waytail Beck via underground field drains.

The company had asked relevant questions about land drainage prior to the incident and has since stopped spreading in this location and is exploring ways to reduce the need to spread in winter months.

The Environment Agency said it is making use of the wide range of measures that are available to bring sites back into compliance as quickly as possible.

Along with prosecutions, it uses enforcement notices, stop notices and civil sanctions to improve performance or close sites.

Fiona Morris, environment manager in the North East, said: “We will always take forward prosecutions in the most serious cases but sometimes we feel an Enforcement Undertaking a more proportionate response that benefits the environment, achieving more than if the companies had been convicted and fined.

“In these cases the companies took immediate action to rectify the situation and have since taken steps to prevent it from happening again. The affected watercourses will now benefit from some great environmental work by local charities.”

Jim Cokill, director of Durham Wildlife Trust, said: “Durham Wildlife Trust will use the funds to support urgent work to halt the continued decline of the water vole across the region."