FL09June - Page 5

Top politicians back joint campaign to tackle
agricultural pollution and restore rivers
Recently (Tuesday 24th April) in the
House of Commons, the Angling
Trust, WWF and The Rivers Trust
launched a widely-praised report,
Saving the Earth, calling for fundamental changes in the way land is
managed to protect rivers, lakes and
estuaries from pollution and to reduce
costs to society from flooding, water
shortages, dredging and water treatment.
The event, chaired by Angling Trust
Head of Campaigns, Martin Salter,
was attended by top politicians from
all parties including ministers,
shadow ministers and chairs of select
The report calls for:
• Firm but fair enforcement of existing and new regulations to outlaw
excessive soil erosion, water run-off
and pollution;
• Local, well-trained, expert farm
advisors providing free advice targeted at the higher risk landowners;
• Targeted incentives to compensate
farmers for changing land use in
high risk areas of the catchment
(usually less than 10% of land area);
• Catchment-based and integrated
planning process to ensure all
organisations are working to the
same, clear objectives.
Environment Minister George
Eustice said at the event: “Soil is full
of living things such as fungi, worms
and bacteria. If you look after the soil
then it is possible to use less pesticides and fertilisers, produce healthier
food and lock up significant amounts
of atmospheric carbon.”
He confirmed the government’s
intention to phase out area-based
payments in favour of subsidies for
land-use change. He stopped short of
committing the additional £10 million
of investment in enforcement and
advice the report says will be required
to reduce the £1.2 billion cost to society of mismanaged soils, claiming
that the Environment Agency could
direct more of its existing staff to
managing water quality.
Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Select Committee,
said that “we have to stop treating
our soil like dirt” and called on the
Environment Minister to ensure that
there is a clear process for the
enforcement of legislation on the face
of the new Environment Bill and clear,
quantifiable targets to which government can be called to account. She
highlighted the fact that the Environment Agency has suffered cuts of 25%
in recent years and does not have the
resources to enforce regulations properly.
Sue Hayman MP, Shadow Secretary
of State for the Environment, welcomed the report and urged the government to implement its findings
urgently to reduce the many costs to
society from badly managed soils and
agricultural pollutants. She said she
had seen the difference that wellmanaged soils can make to managing
flood risk in her Cumbrian constituency.
The meeting also heard from Liz
Lowe, from Coca-Cola, who emphasised the need for sustainable management of soils and water to protect
the supply chain of industries.
Richard Aylard, from Thames Water,
reported that water companies spend
large amounts of money removing
agricultural pollutants from water for
supply to customers, which puts
pressure on water bills.
Saya Harvey, from the National
Farmers Union, noted that a vanguard
of farmers were already changing and
that soil is currently a hot topic in
farming circles. She called for regulations to be more common sense and
less bureaucratic.
Neil Parish MP, Chair of the EFRA
Committee, and Charles Walker MP,
Chair of the All Party Parliamentary
Angling Group, were also among the
cross party MPs who attended the
event hosted by Oliver Heald MP.
Rock star Feargal Sharkey and TV
presenter Matthew Wright, both keen
anglers, spoke passionately about the
need to protect rivers from agricultural pollution.
Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the
Angling Trust & Fish Legal said: “Our
current regulatory and enforcement
regimes are not fit for purpose and are
fundamental to a successful land
management policy that would have
enormous benefits not just for our
threatened fish and wildlife, but to the
rest of society. This is an epic nobrainer and we should get on and
make it happen.” n


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