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Latest 07 February 2023

NEW: We’re supporting an intervention in a Supreme Court appeal against sewage dumping

John Davidson Photos / Alamy Stock Photo

We are delighted that the Environmental Law Foundation (ELF), supported by us, has been given permission to intervene in a landmark case about whether water companies are legally accountable for sewage dumping.


Back in 2018, water company United Utilities brought a legal claim seeking clarification that it could not be sued for the alarming amount of sewage it has discharged into the Manchester Ship Canal through its storm overflows. The High Court ruled that the firm could not be subject to private legal action for these discharges. 

We’ve previously written about how this decision closed off legal challenges by private individuals and businesses impacted by sewage dumping into our waterways.

In effect, it leaves enforcement action down to the regulators to carry out. But, as we have seen, the Environment Agency and Ofwat have been made increasingly toothless through years of Government underfunding and inaction. 

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Last year, we were given permission to intervene in an appeal by the Manchester Ship Canal Company (MSCC) to try and overturn the High Court decision. But the Court of Appeal, too, sided with United Utilities.

The Supreme Court has now agreed to hear MSCC’s appeal. And MSCC liked our legal arguments and asked us to release our Counsel team so they could act for MSCC – and we agreed. What is important to us is that the best arguments are put forward.

However, the case is so important that we decided to support an application by ELF to intervene. The Supreme Court has granted that permission. And the case will be heard very soon – on 6 and 7 March by the Supreme Court sitting in Manchester.

ELF will be represented by Hausfeld LLP and Stephen Hockman KC of 6 Pump Court and Tom Cleaver of Blackstone Chambers.

Aside from this Supreme Court appeal, Good Law Project is involved in two other ongoing cases which aim to tackle the devastating impact of sewage dumping and agricultural pollution on our rivers, waterways and seas. 

We have a legal challenge against the Government’s lack of an appropriate action plan for combating sewage being dumped into our coastal waters and an appeal which aims to protect the River Wye Special Area of Conservation from farming pollution.

And we’re working on more challenges in this space.

If you care about sewage dumping into our waterways and coastal waters and would like to support our work to hold the Government and water companies to account, you can do so here.