Fish Legal claims many thousands of pounds in compensation for damage to its member club's fishery after vast quantities of treated water leaked from Essex and Suffolk Water's burst water mains.
The Chase Lakes, run by Bardag Angling Association at Eastbrookend Country Park in Barking, East London, was flooded-out and suffered massive damage. The angling club reported that water levels on each of the 6 and 9 acre lakes rose and fell by at least three feet, preventing fishing and putting off anglers.
Before: Rising water levels swamped the fishing platforms
The club had invested considerable sums to improve the run-down fishery after taking it over in 2006, and was proud of providing good quality and affordable fishing to the local community in East London. They had improved water quality and fish stocks, created new habitat and introduced invertebrates and plants. Volunteers from the club also developed and improved fish swims and installed fishing platforms and access ways so everyone could take part. The rising water levels swamped and damaged all these works, prevented fishing and harmed the reputation of the club. The falling water (after the leak was eventually mended) then left temporary pegs/platforms, set up to try and maintain some angling, literally 'high and dry' and no longer usable. The club was then faced with a large bill to reinstate what had been originally lost.
To make matters worse, when contacted by Fish Legal (the club's legal representatives), Essex and Suffolk Water refused to acknowledge that the leak had occurred, denying they had any record of it despite having sent a team to fix it. They also said they "failed to understand how water entering the fishery could cause any damage". In common with many other water companies, they refused to disclose their records to Fish Legal solicitors, which blocked efforts to resolve matters.
After: platforms were left 'high and dry' and no longer usable
William Rundle, Solicitor for Fish Legal said: "The water company should have held its hands up to this incident from the beginning in 2010 and then we could have settled the matter quickly and amicably. There is a statutory right to compensation where damage is caused by a water mains leak such as this, and so this should have been a relatively simple matter to sort out. But, because the company denied knowledge of the incident and refused to disclose its records, we have had to incur nearly £15,000 in costs over several years to prepare a comprehensive case that we can take to the courts, if necessary. We await the company's response to our second and final invitation to compensate our member club before proceedings are issued."
Fish Legal has a fighting fund built up over many years from members' subscriptions, donations and legacies, that enables it to take legal cases against large companies on behalf of its 1,000 member angling clubs and riparian owners. In England, it acts as the legal arm of the representative body for coarse, game and sea angling, the Angling Trust. Fish Legal only provides advice and representation to its members.