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Fears for future of River Lambourn

Rubbish dumping could damage highly protected chalk stream

John Garvey

John Garvey


01635 886628

Fears for future of River Lambourn

CONSERVATIONISTS have expressed their fears for the future of the River Lambourn.

The chalk stream – supposedly one of the most protected in the world – is reported to be at risk of a slow death from multiple sources.

Critics have claimed the Environment Agency, the Government body charged with enforcing regulations, has been either toothless or fatally slow in punishing those building contractors who damage or pollute it.

Meanwhile, these images, taken by award-winning Newbury Weekly News photographer Phil Cannings, show just some of the debris dumped by members of the public in the water at Lambourn, Shaw and Turnpike in Newbury.

A shopping trolley, car tyre, plastic bottles and cans are just some of the rubbish currently he noted.

The situation is increasingly urgent as the river level rises at this time of year.

In September it emerged that all English rivers, the River Lambourn included, had failed to meet quality tests for pollution amid concerns over sewage discharges.

Thames Water, under agreement with the agency, is permitted to allow an amount of sewage to enter the stream.

Raw sewage can be seen pouring into the waters during drain eruptions in Lambourn and East Garston each February.

Meanwhile, as previously reported, contractors have dumped waste into the riverbed at Lambourn.

Residents fear they were emboldened by an illegal dredging operation and possible asbestos pollution at East Garston which has so far gone unpunished by the Environment Agency.

Action for the River Kennet (ARK) spokeswoman Charlotte Hitchmough said: “We have been made aware of the recent actions of contractors in Lambourn.

“The River Lambourn is one of the best in the world and should be pristine.

“But some people are clearly not treating it with the care it deserves.

“In Lambourn the sewers are not fit for purpose, causing discharge into the river.

“We are very concerned about the apparent lack of enforcement in general.”

Environment Agency spokesman Peter O’Connor confirmed that, two years on, the agency was still “considering” enforcement options concerning the dredging damage.

He added: "“We take any harm caused to the environment very seriously, keeping any legal action under constant review.  

 “Following our investigation into alleged illegal dredging of the River Lambourn in 2018, we are considering all possible enforcement options open to us.

 “The river continues to respond well to our restoration work, and we are confident the Lambourn will remain a vital habitat for invertebrates, plants and fish. 

“Anyone can report suspicions of environmental harm to our 24-hour incident hotline: 0800 807060.”

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