Anglers Against Pollution

Angling Trust urges government to go further and faster to tackle sewage pollution and reform the water industry

The Angling Trust has issued a strong response to OFWAT’s draft determinations on the water industry business plans for the next five-year spending period (PR24), warning that despite a record increase in investment, sewage spills would continue to occur at unacceptable levels beyond 2030.

The Trust, however, did give a guarded welcome to the measures announced by the new Environment Secretary, Steve Reed, to reform the rules governing water companies and ringfence vital infrastructure investment to prevent the extra funding being spent on shareholder dividends or executive bonuses.

Although the £88bn proposed by OFWAT is the largest planned investment in the UK’s water and wastewater infrastructure, it is only necessary due to decades of complacency which has created a crisis for our rivers and the environment. By failing to keep pace with inflation from 2014 to 2024, OFWAT lost investment of £11bn which could have provided five new reservoirs or to meeting overflow targets five years earlier.

OFWAT has reduced proposed investment levels for the period 2025-2030 by £17bn down to £88bn – 16% less than those proposed by the water companies. This is the biggest cut ever to capital programmes and leaves little headroom to deliver the investment required to meet the targets on pollution and demand reduction set by the previous government – which the Angling Trust has already said are too little and too slow.

OFWAT’s proposed £2bn (44%) cut to sewer overflow reduction programme mean we would still see 135,000hrs of CSO spills in 2030 and in the Thames Water region OFWAT’s target of 64% reduction in CSO spills which would mean 58,000hrs of sewage pouring from their CSO’s in 2030.

Martin Salter, Head of Policy at the Angling Trust, commented:

“Sadly, once again OFWAT has failed to properly recognise the scale of the crisis that has rendered Britain’s wastewater infrastructure unfit for purpose. The levels of investment proposed do not address a generation of under-investment and complacency. They will not deliver all the improvements our rivers desperately need at the pace required by our new government.

“Our water sector is broken, the regulatory regime is weak and ineffective, and without wholesale and radical reform we will not fix the damage being done to the environment, nor secure supplies for the future. The new government has made some bold commitments, but they will need to go further and faster if these are to be realised.”

Stuart Singleton-White, Head of Campaigns at the Angling Trust, added:

“OFWAT do not seem to understand the serious challenges our freshwater environment faces. This draft determination has failed to grasp the fundamental need to ensure a healthy environment, without which we will not have clean water for life. Without a coherent and sustainable plan for clean water the government’s plan to kick-start economic growth, free up planning controls and build 1.5 million houses over the next five years will be put at risk. This is why the Angling Trust is urging ministers to review both this announcement, and the inadequate targets for getting sewage out of rivers, cleaning up our waterways and meeting the legally binding target set out in the Environment Act.”

The Angling Trust will be examining details of the OFWAT announcement to see which schemes have survived the cuts and which rivers will remain at high risk after 2030.

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