Anglers Against Pollution

Kennet Catchment River Keepers Lead Anglers Against Pollution Protest

Sunday, 14th April. Newbury, UK — The Kennet catchment, home to globally rare chalk streams including The Kennet, The Lambourn, and neighbouring river Pang catchment, are currently facing an environmental emergency. A growing crisis looms over the rivers, towns, and villages of the region as it suffers an escalating sewage catastrophe.

Designated as “Special Areas of Conservation” and “Sites of Special Scientific Interest,” these rivers and others in the catchments are under severe threat from continued sewage discharges by Thames Water. The crisis not only endangers the unique river ecosystems but also poses significant health risks to local communities.

For over three months, riverkeepers and residents of the Kennet and Lambourn valleys, along with those in the neighbouring Pang valley, have been subjected to the distressing daily reality of sewage overflowing directly into homes, streets, and rivers. This is a direct result of Thames Water’s failing infrastructure, which has been unable to prevent the continuous discharge of sewage into these sensitive habitats causing obvious environmental damage and creating serious health risks. river keepers and residents have had to endure:

  • Inundation of the multiple award-winning Stonebridge Wild River Reserve with over 300 hours of untreated sewage already in 2024 from just this single unmonitored manhole cascading directly into the river Kennet.
  • Raw sewage and waste overflowing from unmonitored manholes onto the main streets of Lambourn and pouring directly into the once wildlife-rich chalk stream.
  • “Drive slowly” signs outside of Compton C.E. Primary School to prevent cars from splashing raw sewage onto pedestrians.

Politicians addressing the gathered crowd of over 250 people included Baroness Jenny Jones, Green; Laura Farris – MP for Newbury, Conservative; Lee Dillon – Head of West Berkshire Council, LibDem; and Olivia Bailey – candidate for Reading West & Mid Berkshire, Labour.

The event was held by a coalition of concerned groups and individuals, led by the Kennet Catchment River Keepers Association (KCRA), and supported by the Angling Trust, Action for the River Kennet (ARK), residents, and angling clubs from Reading to Newbury. This united front against Thames Water’s negligence called for immediate and decisive action to protect these unique chalk streams and local communities including:

  • A government intervention. Thames Water is not fit for purpose and must be taken into special measure immediately to protect consumers and the environment.
  • An urgent investigation by industry regulator OFWAT. Into Thames Water operations and plans in West Berkshire and Wiltshire.
  • Urgent upgrades to Marlborough WWTW. Upgrades are not currently due to be complete until the end of 2026 – work has not even been designed yet – and the WWTW will not meet targets for storm overflows until 2030/35. This is too long.
  • Priority of plans to tackle groundwater ingress. The EA has confirmed what has been done to date has had no impact. Thames Water must bring forward plans to tackle groundwater ingress (which is not a legally permitted reason to dispose of sewage in a waterway). Local communities have suffered for too long, rivers will be irreparably damaged if pollution is allowed to continue.

Sam Marshall, Riverkeeper, Chairman, KCRA, said, “The River Kennet, like all our chalk streams, is a jewel in England’s river systems, yet it is being treated much more like an open sewer and waste disposal system than a globally rare ecosystem. The sheer lack of investment from water companies has led to rivers being sucked dry in the summer months, and then filled with sewage in the winter months, subjecting them to year-round undue stress. Our water services industry is not only broken but also completely unregulated. The governing bodies that should be prosecuting and protecting our waterways are so underfunded they are non-existent. We need to see vast improvements from regulators, pushing for prosecutions of underperforming and polluting water companies.”

Anna Forbes, Action for the River Kennet (ARK), Senior Project Officer commented, “Our fragile chalk streams have had months of raw sewage continuously pouring into them, from sewage treatment works without adequate capacity and from burst manholes. Our water quality testing evidence very concerning ammonia, phosphate, and bacteria results. We are demanding better from the government, regulators, and Thames Water for our rivers, their wildlife, and the local communities. We want to see long-term solutions, not the expensive sticking plaster reactive responses happening at the moment.”

Speaking at the rally, longtime Kennet angler and Angling Trust Head of Policy, Martin Salter, said: “What is happening right now in Lambourn, with raw sewage flowing down the streets and into the river, is an absolute disgrace. The storm overflows discharging straight into the Kennet, a so-called protected SSSI chalk stream, is a disgrace. But what is even more disgraceful is that Thames Water has no plans to fix groundwater infiltration until 2045 or to tackle the failings of Marlborough STW until 2035. And even if their business plans are approved what confidence do, we have that this bankrupt and failing disaster of a water company will deliver on even these inadequate commitments?”

For more information about the Angling Trust’s Anglers Against Pollution campaign or to get your club involved in our Water Quality Monitoring Network please see:


You might also like