Environment Secretary holds roundtable to drive forward improvements in river quality

Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey and Water Minister Rebecca Pow met with local community groups, environmental regulators, farming representatives, water company representatives and local councillors in Suffolk on Thursday 10 August 2023 to discuss actions to improve the River Deben.

The roundtable, chaired by the Secretary of State and the Water Minister, provided a forum for local partners to raise concerns and explore solutions to improve the health and sustainability of the river and to discuss delivery of the Plan for Water, which will bring increased investment, tougher enforcement and tighter regulation to the water sector.

Key areas of discussions included the designation of bathing sites in the area; pollution resulting from storm overflows, wastewater treatment and agriculture and  water resources. They also covered how these issues may be addressed through river catchment plans, targeting actions where they will deliver the greatest impact for water quality, flood management, and nature recovery. Ongoing work by Defra, the Environment Agency and partners to maintain and improve water quality along the river, and protect nationally significant saltmarsh habitats in the Deben Estuary was also discussed.

Action on the ground includes using farm visits, undertaken through the Catchment Sensitive Farming Initiative led by Natural England, to check compliance with all the relevant farming regulations. Government funding for the programme has increased to £30 million a year so that all farms across the UK can access advice and support. Guidance is also being offered to locals who are not connected to the mains sewer on how to ensure that their systems are functional, legal and maintained properly.

Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey said:

Thérèse Coffey
Thérèse Coffey

“As someone who enjoys spending time by the River Deben, I share the passion for protecting and enhancing its waters shown by our partners today.

“One of the key parts of our Plan for Water is tailored long-term catchment plans with new funding for catchment groups. For this to succeed collaboration at a local level is vital so we can all work towards improving the water system together.”

Water Minister Rebecca Pow said:

Rebecca Pow
Rebecca Pow

“It is clear the River Deben is a precious habitat for many in the community but it is under pressure.

“River water quality must improve and our new Plan for Water sets out how increased investment, tougher enforcement and tighter regulation is helping tackle every source of river pollution.”

“At the Deben, I look forward to seeing greater collaboration from all parties locally as this is also vital if water quality is to improve.”

The meeting is part of a series of local conversations to improve water quality and increase water supply at rivers across England. Roundtable attendees included representatives from local councils, Essex & Suffolk Rivers Trust, the NFU, Natural England, the River Deben Association, and Anglian Water. At the meeting, the Environment Secretary highlighted the importance of addressing individual river catchments in light of their own specific challenges and contexts – while maintaining a holistic approach to improving river health across the country.




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