Robert has welcomed today’s Government announcement that measures to reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows will be put into law, as part of an ambitious agenda to build back greener from the pandemic.
Robert has been leading a long-running campaign to tackle sewage pollution and improve the health of local rivers such as the Windrush and Evenlode. The campaign achieved a significant success earlier this year, with the Environment Minister announcing a generational ambition to end pollution from storm overflows.
Storm overflows date back to the Victorian Era and were designed to be used during extreme weather to prevent sewers becoming overloaded with a combination of sewage and rainwater, releasing diluted wastewater into rivers rather than letting it back up into people’s homes.
The use of storm overflows by Thames Water in rivers such as the Windrush and Evenlode has been the source of controversy in West Oxfordshire, with Robert leading the efforts to tackle their use.
Reducing the reliance of water companies on storm overflows is vital in helping to cut pollution in waterways and, earlier this year, the Government announced it was working Conservative MP Philip Dunne on the shared ambition of ending pollution from storm overflows, following the introduction of his Private Member’s Bill in 2020.
This ambition has now been turned into decisive action, with the Government confirming that a number of key policies will be put into law. This will create three key duties to oversee some of the changes needed to improve our water environment:
- a duty on government to publish a plan by September 2022 to reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows;
- a duty on government to report to Parliament on progress on implementing the plan; and
- a duty on water companies to publish data on storm overflow operation on an annual basis.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “Putting new commitments to improve our rivers into law is an important step forward to cut down the water sector’s reliance on storm overflows. This step is one of many – but an important one nonetheless – to provide greater protection for our water environment and the wildlife that relies on it.”
Philip Dunne, MP for Ludlow and Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said: “I introduced my Private Member Bill to help tackle the scourge of sewage discharges polluting our waterways. Due to the impact of the pandemic on the Parliamentary timetable, I have been working to encourage the Government to adopt the key principles of my Bill.
“I am delighted that the Environment Minister has honoured her pledge to seek a legislative route to give effect to the main objectives: from the Government updating Parliament on the progress it is making in reducing sewage discharges, to placing a duty on water companies to publish storm overflow data.
“Today’s commitment by the Government means all the hard work with campaigners and colleagues in Parliament over the past year is not wasted and we shall work in the next session to find the best route to turn this into statute.”
Robert said: “This is another hugely significant step forward in the campaign to improve the condition of rivers in West Oxfordshire, with decisive legislative action being taken to tackle pollution from sewage overflows.
“I commend the Government for taking the strong action that is required to transform a system that has been operating since the Victorian Era. Today’s announcement is a major victory for those of us who have been campaigning for change.
“I will continue to drive progress locally so that we and future generations can enjoy clean and healthy waterways.”