Meet the team: Justin Neal

2 minute read
  • Wildfish
  • Wildfish
  • Wildfish
  • Wildfish
Justin joins the WildFish team as an environmental solicitor.

Justin joins the WildFish team as a solicitor and specialises in environmental law. Justin deals with water resource issues including abstraction licensing and water company planning, as well as sewage-related pollution.

Here is what Justin told us about life before WildFish and his new role…

What was your background before joining WildFish?

I taught for ten years before converting to law. I qualified as a solicitor in 2005, dealing in civil litigation cases on behalf of trade union members before joining the Anglers’ Conservation Association/ Fish Legal, working with Guy Linley-Adams.

After a subsequent spell heading the legal team at Fish Legal and then the environment team in the Public Law department of Irwin Mitchell, I returned to Fish Legal to continue with campaigning work and legal cases. During this time, I dealt with high-profile challenges to Defra and the Environment Agency on the Water Framework Directive, Information Law and planning-related judicial reviews.

What can you tell us about your new role?

My current focus is the abject failure of our environmental regulators and the water companies to protect vulnerable rivers from the destructive and excessive removal of water. Rivers and streams in the south of England are under real pressure, particularly chalk streams. Water companies are supposed to prepare plans to find ways of taking water sustainably – but this often isn’t the case. We want water companies to find alternative solutions to meeting water supply demand and to stop their reliance on water from our rivers, lakes and streams.

I’m also finding ways to ensure the regulators deal with on-going pressures from sewage and agricultural pollution.

How will your role have a positive influence on wild fish conservation?

The answers to the problems facing the aquatic environment are close at hand and involve the use of existing laws. Regulators often ignore the laws in place and underestimate their environmental impact, which gives them an excuse for doing nothing. I would say of the 30 or so judicial reviews I have been involved with in the past 15 years, most have centred on poor regulation, whether planning-related or a result of the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales not doing their jobs properly. That’s what the lawyers at WildFish are good at identifying and resolving.

My job is to get the regulators to act positively to protect and improve the environment. Getting these results often means using the courts.

Favourite freshwater species and why?

As a child I used to fish for “white trout” or sea trout at night on the River Sow in Wexford, a river known for its high rocky waterfalls and low bogland. I like to think of this species-defying fish, which faces pressures from pollution and netting, mysteriously transforming as it heads out into the sea before its return through the reeded meanders and up into the stoney pools of the Sow.

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