Campaigners Halt Judicial Review of Government’s Water Plans

The Angling Trust and WWF-UK have welcomed Defra’s recent statement committing to a package of new measures to deliver the EU Water Framework Directive. The commitments in the statement provide assurances which satisfactorily address the numerous points raised by these organisations over the past year in their joint application for Judicial Review of the Government and Environment Agency’s first round of River Basin Management Plans. On this basis, WWF-UK and the Angling Trust have agreed to withdraw their legal action against the Government.

In particular, the statement includes:

  • Establishment of 10 pilot catchments where innovative measures, including by enforcement action if necessary, will be tested to “drive action vigorously”, to address problems from pollution, abstraction and habitat damage in rivers and lakes;
  • Commitments to make the next round of plans available for the whole of England & Wales ahead of the required deadline, enabling other organisations to be consulted and to help deliver the objectives;
  • A commitment to further and faster improvements in the number of water bodies achieving Good Ecological Status or Potential;
  • A programme of 8,500 investigations and other monitoring and analysis to reduce the significant level of uncertainty in the first round of plans, the results of which will be published, with regular progress reports to environmental bodies;
  • A commitment to develop clarity about how long-standing causes of decline in the freshwater environment will be identified, including sediment pollution;
  • Elimination of uncertainty about the ecological status or potential of all water bodies by 2015 – this was a reason for lack of action on many water bodies;
  • Clarification of the process by which decisions are made to take action, following the removal of uncertainty about the reasons for failure as a reason for not taking action by the end of 2015;
  • Clear timetables for action to achieve the objectives of the Directive;

David Nussbaum, Chief Executive of WWF-UK said:

“The Water Framework Directive is one of the most ambitious pieces of environmental legislation ever passed in Europe, or anywhere in the world. It holds out the promise of safeguarding our natural environment and the water supplies on which we depend. We are delighted that the government has moved to put in place a range of new approaches that will reinvigorate action to meet these objectives.”

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust said:
“The EU’s Water Framework Directive should be – if properly implemented – the most important legislation for the protection and improvement of freshwater and coastal fisheries for generations. We are pleased that in the context of public spending cuts the Government has committed to put right the shortcomings in the first round of plans. Angling clubs and riparian owners are very keen to work with the Environment Agency, Rivers Trusts and others to help make these new plans a reality.”