NORTHUMBRIAN Water has been fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £3,850 costs by Guisborough Magistrates, after raw sewage entered a beck near Loftus.

On Monday, the company admitted causing poisonous, noxious or polluting matter to enter controlled waters, in a case brought by the Environment Agency.

The court heard that on December 2 and 3 last year, a blockage in a sewer, thought to be caused by vandals, caused raw sewage to enter Whitecliffe Beck, near Loftus. Sewage and debris affected a two kilometre stretch, causing a strong smell in Skinningrove.

Bill Stephenson, from the Environment Agency, said after the case that the sewer was difficult to access and was badly damaged.

"Northumbrian Water does accept it has a problem there, and since we went ahead with the prosecution they have put a lot of effort in to improving it."

Alistair Baker, communications manager at Northumbrian Water, said there had not been any lasting harm to the aquatic environment, but there had been an awful odour for people living in the village.

He said the company had admitted responsibility for the problem, even though it was caused by vandals.

"We have undertaken work to the value of £160,000, including fitting 22ft of anti-vandal covers on manholes on this particular stretch of sewer," he said. "We are also spending £8.4m in that area on improvements to the sewage system, which will benefit the local environment and the coastal area.