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Polluters’ fines can restore waterways

Water companies which pollute illegally must pay for the damage they are causing to our rivers, seas and waterways - and local communities should have a say in how that money is used to repair the damage.

Since 2017, the Environment Agency (EA) has toughened up its approach to water companies that break the rules and dump sewage in our rivers and seas, slapping them with over £140 million in fines.

The government's recent decision to lift the cap on civil fines will give the EA greater powers to punish polluters. But areas affected by water pollution should have this money made available to clean up their rivers and make them thriving places for nature and recreation.

That's why, together with over 35 members of the Conservative Environment Network, I am proud to sign a new ambitious manifesto that calls for a River Restoration Fund, with money from these fines. It's a positive step towards tackling this disgusting problem.

The manifesto also includes important policies to end water pollution for good. Sadly, there are no quick fixes - our ageing Victorian water infrastructure was never designed to cope with modern demand - but we can strengthen our efforts to clean up our rivers, seas and waterways.

Simple policies like introducing a clear labelling system to discourage people from flushing items like wet wipes, nappies, and sanitary products could prevent some of the 300,000 blockages a year these items cause, saving bill payers £100 million in works to clear them.

Making it a legal requirement for water firms to be consulted on large planning applications and ensuring new homes don't drain more rainwater into our sewage system would also limit polluting storm overflow usage.

I urge ministers to consider these simple conservative ideas that would ease pressure on our creaking sewage system, cut pollution and fund local river restoration initiatives.

First published by the Daily Express. Philip Dunne MP (Ludlow) is a member of the Conservative Environment Network.


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