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Rivers: Nature Conservation

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 59103, tabled on 19 October 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what recent steps he has taken to prevent deterioration in river wildlife; and what resources he will provide to local authorities in England to protect and restore water habitats.

Answered on

27 October 2021

River basin management plans (RBMPs) set out objectives and put in place measures to protect, enhance and manage our surface waters, including the conservation objectives for protected sites. The 2015 RBMPs confirmed £3 billion investment over the period to 2021. In England this has led to over 11,000km of surface water being enhanced since the 2015 plans were published. The next update of the plans has just been published for consultation by the Environment Agency (EA) and I encourage local authorities and all interested parties to engage in that process.

Many of our rivers are designated as protected sites, in whole or in part, in view of their national and/or international importance. These provisions provide a high level of protection but also rely on a broad range of complementary measures to secure their conservation, often at the catchment scale. These measures are an important part of river basin planning.

In addition, Defra and the EA are working together to tackle the main pressures affecting the water environment and freshwater habitats. We are tackling river and lake pollution from poor farming practice with regulation, financial incentives and educational schemes for farmers. Water company investment in environmental improvements has been scaled up to £7.1 billion over the period 2020-25. The storm overflow task force and new measures through the Environment Bill will focus effort on reducing harms from storm overflows and our new chemicals strategy will build on an already robust statutory regime to ensure chemicals are managed and handled safely. We will also be setting at least one new, legally binding target on water quality through the Environment Bill.