I am delighted to announce that I have signed the Conservative Environment Network’s “Changing Course: A manifesto for our rivers, seas, and waterways” today.
Water is the single most precious and critical resource on our planet. Without it, life on earth would cease to exist. As an island nation, water is also at the heart of our national story.
Our rivers, seas, and waterways have made our great nation what it is today and what it will continue to be for generations to come. Water has provided us with routes for travel and trade, sources of food and energy, irrigation for our crops, habitats for our unique wildlife, and treasured recreational spaces for generations of Britons. It is our collective duty, therefore, to protect and restore this vital resource.
However, our waterways are in poor health. Just 16 percent of English waterways are currently in good ecological condition. The Environmental Audit Committee went as far as to describe our rivers as a ‘chemical cocktail’ of sewage, agricultural waste, and plastic.
The passage of the landmark Environment Act last year marked a step change in government action to improve water quality in England. The legislation created a new duty on water companies to progressively reduce harm from storm overflows, a storm overflow reduction plan unlocking £56 billion of investment to tackle sewage discharges, and new targets to reduce wastewater and agricultural pollutants.
But although water quality policies have never been stronger, there is still a long way to go if we are to meet our new water quality targets and deal with all the pressures on our waterways, like agricultural runoff. There is a huge public appetite to improve the health of our water environment, and strong support for environmental protections to safeguard water quality.
That is why Conservative MPs have come together to create this manifesto for water, containing six ambitious, conservative policies to restore the health of the rivers, seas, and waterways that have shaped and defined our country throughout its history.
- Invest revenue from water company fines into restoring our waters and ensure executive pay is linked to environmental performance
- Roll out the Environmental Land Management Scheme, so that farmers are paid to improve water quality and reduce flooding
- Introduce a clear labelling system to stop unflushable items from blocking sewers and polluting our waters
- Reform planning rules to build more reservoirs and ensure housebuilding does not contribute to storm overflow discharges
- Create a private market for developers to fund river catchment restoration and unlock housebuilding blocked by harmful chemical pollutants
- Designate at least 22 new local inland bathing sites across England every five years to empower communities to clean up their rivers and help people swim safely
Find out more about the manifesto: www.cen.uk.com/changing-course-manifesto