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Urgent answers sought from DEFRA and Environment Agency to address concerns over River Test sewage pollution
UPDATE: In response to our press release, Natural England has immediately confirmed to the Angling Trust and Fish Legal that they did not approve Southern Water’s plans to over-pump into the river Test at Chilbolton. As a direct result of this being brought to their attention by members of the public, HRKA, Activist Anglers and TIA, Natural England is now investigating whether there has been any damage to the protected site which might require remediation. In the meantime, Natural England is unable to confirm or comment further on whether enforcement action may be appropriate in this case while its investigation is ongoing. We await a separate response from DEFRA and the Environment Agency.
In a unified move to protect the ecology of the River Test, the Angling Trust, Fish Legal, the Test & Itchen Association (TIA), the Hampshire River Keepers Association (HRKA) and Activist Anglers have collectively voiced their deep concerns regarding Southern Water’s recent move to pump untreated wastewater from the sewer network directly into the River Test.
The action, which was widely condemned and ultimately halted due to public protest, has prompted an urgent call to the Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Steve Barclay, and the CEO of the Environment Agency, Phillip Duffy, to provide details of the basis upon which Southern Water’s over-pumping plans for the river were approved and allowed to proceed.
Jamie Cook, CEO of the Angling Trust, said:
“The River Test is much more than a local treasure, it is an internationally renowned natural asset that demands our highest level of stewardship. There appears to be a dereliction of duty here on the part of the authorities who are responsible for safeguarding and protecting this wonderful river.”
Penny Gane, Head of Practice at Fish Legal, stated:
“We have asked to see the evidence of how the Environment Agency and Natural England – the government’s adviser for the natural environment in England – came to approve Southern Water’s plans to over-pump untreated wastewater into this protected chalk stream. Any activity that could endanger recently laid salmon and trout eggs in the river gravels shouldn’t be allowed.”
Jim Murray, actor, and founder of campaign group Activist Anglers, commented:
“Anglers and river keepers are hands down the strongest voices for our rivers, and Southern Water’s recent plans to pollute the Test were halted by their collective power. It is imperative that such networks continue to join forces on a national scale if we are to save our rivers.”
The TIA and HRKA, both deeply embedded in the conservation efforts for the River Test, have highlighted the social, ecological and economic significance of the river.
Paul Vignaux, Executive Director of the Test & Itchen Association, said:
“The health of Hampshire’s chalk streams, and the wildlife and rural communities they support cannot be compromised. DEFRA and the EA must progress immediate action and meaningful dialogue which will lead to a permanent change in the water companies’ behaviour. We want to ensure such ‘mistakes’ are not repeated.”
Peter Farrow, Secretary of the Hampshire River Keepers Association commented:
“The River Test is the lifeblood of our communities, supporting a diverse range of wildlife and playing a significant role in contributing to the economic wellbeing of the region.”
The joint communication outlines a series of urgent questions and requests for information to understand the rationale behind the decision, the scope of the impact, and measures for prevention and mitigation in the future. The collective emphasises the need for transparency, accountability, and a shared commitment to environmental protection. The organisations look forward to a prompt response from DEFRA and the Environment Agency.
The protection and preservation of the River Test and its ecosystems are of paramount importance, and the Angling Trust, Fish Legal, TIA, HRKA, and Activist Anglers are committed to working tirelessly to safeguard these resources for present and future generations.