WildFish granted permission to challenge the Government’s Sewage Overflows Plan

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Sewage draining from a pipe directly into a river.

Today, WildFish has been given permission to apply for judicial review of the Government’s “Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan” which is:

  • Confusing and contradictory.
  • Fails to deal with the overflows that are causing the problem.
  • Set targets which would allow water companies to continue dumping unacceptable amounts of raw sewage over a prolonged period, in some cases up to 2050.

Regulations to deal with the problem of untreated sewage overflows in anything other than extreme weather conditions have been in place since 1994. The underlying cause of the current problem is the continued failure of the water companies to comply with the duties imposed on them, and the government, to properly enforce them. The Plan does not deal with this.

WildFish argues that the Plan is unlawful on the grounds that: it approves continuing unlawful conduct, fails to consider the existing law, breaches the Habitats Regulations, and is irrational.

WildFish has instructed leading environmental law barrister James Maurici KC and Charles Bishop of Landmark Chambers, and Fieldfisher LLP, to bring the challenge.

WildFish’s claim will be heard in conjunction with a similar claim by the Marine Conservation Society.

“Years of underinvestment and absent regulators have got us where we are today with widespread illegal sewage discharges. If The Plan is intended to deal with illegal discharges, it is unlawfully encouraging law-breaking for years to come. If it is not intended to deal with these illegal discharges, it is irrelevant.

Nick Measham

CEO of WildFish

Nick continued: “We have no problem with The Plan being used to arrive at an initial rough estimate of the costs required to provide upgrades to storm overflows. However, its failure to deal with the vast majority of relevant outfalls and the production of sub-targets and headline targets, which have no basis in the application of the existing regulations, is unacceptable.

We want the Government to give the relevant agencies the mandate and the money to enforce and compel the water companies to deliver the infrastructure urgently required to end sewage pollution. We want action now not plans for the never, never”.

  • Nick Gooderham
    14th February 2023

    First class, well done Nick and your team.. What with ‘Clean it up’, pressure is rightfully coming from divergent directions.

  • Mary Saunders
    15th February 2023

    I wish you every success with bringing clean water to the UK.

    15th February 2023

    I am going to crowd fund to help fight the sewage overflow plan, I am very worried about this governments lackadaisical attitude to controling this problem but I am also very concerned about the current Minister Therese Coffeys’ terrible past record as a minister, I noted earlier in the week that she is questioning the levels of fines that can be made against the water companies.
    I feel that this is just wasting more time, creating more red tape and allowing the water companies to get away with polluting our rivers for longer.

  • Su Pedersen
    15th February 2023

    It’s disgraceful that sewage is released into lakes killing all life & creating plumes of pollution where nothing can survive- we have a responsibility to protect all wildlife while there is some time. Just because animals can’t talk doesn’t mean. They don’t have rights!!!

  • Ian Woodburn
    15th February 2023

    I think the only action that will bring rapid results is the re- nationalisation of public services . The water companies have been acting illegally for years and permitting a long term plan in order to address these concerns will just allow them to continue their illegal practices for years to come.

  • Alistair Gammell
    15th February 2023

    You are doing a brilliant job in challenging this. I think you should crowd-fund for it. Not only would it bring you in some money, but also it would get WildFish better known.

  • user1_immy
    20th February 2023

    Hi Alistair, thank you for your message. We are crowdfunding to support our legal fees. The donation page is linked here: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/stop-sewage-pollution/

  • Cari
    16th February 2023

    I never thought that this actually happened in a first world country. I live in South Africa regarded third world and this does happen sometimes,but it seems it’s even worse in UK than here.

  • David Gerrard
    16th February 2023

    The state of our waters breaks my heart so I’m very keen to contribute to this great cause but am quite concerned about putting my credit card details in to this site. I know others who feel similarly about these sites. I’d feel more comfortable if PayPal was an option.


  • K skidmore
    16th February 2023

    Hopefully something will be done, can’t believe in this day that the government and private companies can get away with this

  • Nigel Deitch
    18th February 2023

    Time the CEO’s where prosecuted, as head of these companies the Buck has to stop with them. They get paid the big money with big bonuses and ignorance is not a defence in a Court of Law.

  • Julian Woolgar
    3rd March 2023

    Out of interest is this a team effort with other associations eg Surfers against Sewage / British Canoeing / Canal & River Trust.

  • user1_immy
    6th March 2023

    Hi Julian, we needed to move quickly on this so our current legal challenge is not in collaboration with other organisations.

  • Nash John
    3rd March 2023

    Fully support the challenge

  • Antony Hoare
    3rd March 2023

    I’ve just been encouraged to sign a petition by Fish Legal on a similar topic. With Feargal Sharlene, Fish Legal and others all fighting to improve our rivers and hold the water companies to account, isn’t it time all like minded organisations joined forces?

  • Peter Wrigley
    7th March 2023

    I am supporting you on this

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