Fish Legal Seeks Judicial Review of Environment Agency
Fish Legal, acting on behalf of its member club the Cropston Angling Association, seeks judicial intervention in a row over water transfers harming Cropston Reservoir Site of Special Scientific Interest (or SSSI). Currently, the Environment Agency does not routinely regulate transfers of surface water by water companies (or others), even though they can cause significant damage.
Despite being a conservation site the once pristine lake suffers from nutrient enrichment (or eutrophication). Cropston forms part of a series of reservoirs owned by Severn Trent Water used to supply drinking water. Under licences granted by the Environment Agency large quantities of water can be pumped into Cropston from other nearby reservoirs, but these have historically had much higher nutrient levels (of phosphates) and as a result have contributed to the decline of water quality at Cropston. Despite acknowledging this problem in its own 2004 report, the Environment Agency refuses to control or prohibit the amount of nutrients pumped into Cropston, even though they are a pollutant.
Cropston Angling raised the alarm many years ago and has campaigned tirelessly to protect the SSSI and its fishery since problems started back in the late 1990s. Despite years of campaigning the regulator still refuses to protect the reservoir by controlling the transfers under an Environmental Permit. An Environmental Permit would set limits on the amount of specified pollutants that could be discharged into the reservoir.
In recent correspondence the Environment Agency confirmed this could be a country-wide problem affecting many other waters.
It said: "...consideration was being given within the Agency to the circumstances in which a transfer of surface water may constitute a “Water Discharge Activity” under the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010 (‘EPR 2010’). That is a question which potentially impacts on a large number of existing water transfers across the country, and which may have considerable regulatory implications for the Agency and those who make, or are affected by such transfers. It is not a matter on which a final view can be taken purely by reference to the circumstances at Cropston Reservoir which concern your client."
Fed up with excuses, Fish Legal insisted they recognised their duty under EU and National Law to prohibit or control discharges of pollutants at Cropston, as part of a range of measures aimed to improve the water environment.
There has been a trout fishery at Cropston for over a hundred years, and it was once considered one of the best reservoir game fisheries in the country. Unfortunately, the impact of these water transfers meant the fishery and its popularity declined. Fish Legal wants the Environment Agency to act so that both this important environmental site and the fishery it holds are returned to their former glory.
Ian Kilgour, leaseholder and operator of Cropston Angling Association, said: “Having fished at Cropston Reservoir for over thirty years I am very much aware of the harmful effects that changed pumping and management procedures have had on the nature conservation and angling interests of the reservoir. These changes have occurred since the water industry was privatised. Natural England , who manage the reservoir as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, have classified Cropston Reservoir as being in “Unfavourable Condition” because of this decline in condition over the past decade. Despite years of correspondence and meetings with the relevant authorities I have failed to get any meaningful action to restore the quality of the nature conservation and angling interests on Cropston Reservoir. I am now extremely grateful for the help and expertise that Fish Legal is able to provide.”
William Rundle, Head Solicitor at Fish Legal, said: “Nutrient enrichment of water bodies is a wide-spread problem suffered across the country, but that is no excuse for failing to tackle it. We have repeatedly asked for decisive action from the Agency at Cropston, to protect and restore the reservoir. Unfortunately, it has now proved necessary to start court proceedings and we must wait to hear the view of the Judge on this matter.”
Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal said: “The Agency should jump at the chance to force water companies and others to prevent pollution in all their waters which would have benefits for wildlife, fish, anglers and the whole of society. Fish Legal is backed by a fighting fund accumulated over the past 65 years from subscriptions, donations and legacies from its members and this will help us fight this expensive legal case.”