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Government move to water down river protections set to harm Staffordshire’s wildlife

Wildlife in Staffordshire’s rivers and their tributaries is set to suffer in light of the Government’s latest plan to scrap housebuilding water pollution regulations.

The Nutrient Neutrality rules are designed to ensure that developers limit and mitigate pollution resulting from housing developments being built near to our most highly protected rivers.

The River Mease in Staffordshire, which is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) due to the protected species that live in it, is one of the watercourses protected by the regulations. Removing these protections will inevitably harm wildlife and worsen water quality in the river.

The Government’s plan to scrap the protections comes against increasing public pressure to clean up our watercourses, which are ranked among the worst in Europe for water quality.

This national picture is reflected in Staffordshire, with just one out of 41 watercourses in the Trent Valley catchment rated as being in good ecological health.

David Cadman, Head of Nature Recovery Networks at Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, said:

“These rules were designed to help protect our most wildlife-rich rivers from further pollution. Almost every river and stream across the county is in an appalling state, so instead of proposing to abolish these rules, what the Government should be doing is rolling them out to protect every watercourse. If we can’t even protect the very best places for wildlife, what hope do we have for the rest?

“The Government set itself a target to halt the decline of wildlife by 2030, and this plan goes directly against this. There are many contributing factors to the poor water quality and ecological health of our rivers, and if we are serious about bringing them back to life, we must work together with water companies, landowners and developers to find solutions to this crisis.”

For many years Staffordshire Wildlife Trust has worked with landowners across the county to improve water quality through Natural England’s Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund. The work has focussed on helping landowners fund improvements which help to reduce pollution from a landholding from entering a watercourse. The schemes have proved to be a low cost method of improving water quality in some of the most polluted watercourses.

Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, added: “In May, June and July, the Government made promises to the British people and to Parliament that they would not lower environmental protections or standards. But they are planning to do precisely the opposite. “It is not only terrible value for money for the taxpayer but it’s breaking promises to the environment made by Rishi Sunak. How can we ever trust environmental promises he makes again?” The Government’s proposal to scrap nutrient neutrality rules will be debated by the House of Lords in coming weeks, before it returns to the House of Commons. The Trust is urging its supporters to contact their MP urgently to encourage them to reject these plans and defend nature. Nature lovers can send a postcard to their MP at: Supporters can also help Staffordshire Wildlife Trust continue its work to kickstart nature’s recovery in Staffordshire by making a donation here:


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