Amongst many important issues which I am interested in campaigning for in North East Hertfordshire is the promotion of the preservation of chalk rivers in the constituency. The Ash, the Beane, the Ivel, the Mimram, the Quin, the Rib, and the Upper Rhee are all within the constituency, and these rivers regularly face the possibility of drying up over the summer months - harming local wildlife, flora, and fauna. This is an extremely important issue and I am very cheered that the White Water Papers which DEFRA has published last year seek to address over-abstraction, which is a common reason for why rivers suffer drought.
Previously I have tabled an emergency motion (EDM 1392) in the House of Commons on this matter which attracted the support of well over 120 MPs. I have also initiated a debate in the House on the issue and continue to work closely with WWF, the Beane Restoration Association and Friends of Mimram with their latest initiatives.
I was pleased to hear recently that some of our hard work has paid off when Ofwat granted Affinity Water’s 2015 business plan “enhanced status” (Please see the letter below). This means that the Fulling Mill pumping station will be closed and then in 2020 there will be a reduction in the amount of water extracted at Digswell. The Environment Agency has also written to Affinity Water informing them about proposed changes to their abstraction licences at Fulling Mill and Whitehall. It is proposed that Affinity Water's licence to abstract water from Fulling Mill will be revoked and its licence to abstract water from the Beane will be changed so that it is not able to abstract so much water. More details about the proposed changes in abstraction can be found below.
On 25th November 2014, I helped launch a WWF/Coca Cola Report into the condition of England’s chalk streams (pictured above). The report calls on the Government to make the preservation of chalk streams a national priority, to reform the process of water abstraction licensing, and regularly to report to the House of Commons on progress. Here is a link to my Parliamentary Question to the DEFRA Secretary about the report.
January 2015 - I asked a series of Written Parliamentary Questions to the Department for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs about chalk streams. The text of these questions and the replies I recieved can be found below:
18th February 2015 – I recently called on the Environment Agency for a briefing about the water quality and native wildlife of the River Ivel. It is found below. I am soon to visit the source in Baldock to hear local concerns.
20th March 2015 - I visited the River Beane at White Hall, and was pleased to see that the river was flowing well.
22nd June 2015 - I recieved an answer to a Written Parliamentary Question that I sent to the DEFRA Minister, updating me on progress that has been made in improving local chalk streams.
14th December 2015 - I received a reply to my Written Parliamentary Question on phosphate pollution levels in Hertfordshire’s chalk rivers. I am glad that the levels are remaining stable, and I am hopeful for reductions over the coming years.
15th December 2015 - I received a reply to my Written Parliamentary Question on improving physical habitats in Hertfordshire’s chalk rivers. I am glad to see the £3m investment for habitat improvement, and the success in previous schemes is encouraging.
June 2016 - I visited Tewinbury Nature Reserve to highlight the work that is needed to preserve the River Mimram and the wealth of biodiversity that it supports. It was fascinating to see the work being done by the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, and it was good to see the Reserve in such good condition, thanks to the work of the warden, Robin Cole, and his team.
October 2017 – I attended an exhibition at Parliament backing the WWF campaign on river quality ‘I want my river flowing’ which supports river quality improvements. I have campaigned long and hard to improve river flow in the seven chalk streams of North East Hertfordshire and agreements have been reached to reduce abstraction on the Rivers Beane and Mimram. It is important that we should value our chalk streams which are such an important part of the North East Hertfordshire environment and I will continue to press the case.
24th April 2018 – I sponsored the launch at Parliament of a major report ‘Saving the earth – a sustainable future for soils and water’ jointly compiled by the Angling Trust, WWF-UK and The Rivers Trust, recommending a radical new approach to managing the countryside to prevent soil erosion, flooding and pollution, which are damaging our rivers and threatening our wildlife and economy. There was good support from MPs including the Minister of State at DEFRA. This link includes a clip of me explaining the importance of the campaign https://tinyurl.com/yaxgbnhm