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Latest 26 September 2023

Sewage pollution plan to include coastal waters in a win for Good Law Project

James Ratchford / Shutterstock

Legal challenge brings missing storm overflows into Government’s plan to tackle sewage dumping.

All coastal waters and estuaries have been included in the Government’s plan to reduce sewage dumping, after legal action brought by Good Law Project.

We supported Marine Conservation Society, Richard Haward’s Oysters and the surfer and activist Hugo Tagholm in a challenge to the Government’s Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan, which attempts to tackle the industrial-scale sewage pollution impacting our rivers and coastlines.

Our legal action highlighted the fact that the Government’s plans missed out 600 storm overflows in coastal areas and estuaries. Faced with our legal challenge, the Government conceded in June that it would consult on expanding its plan to cover all coastal and estuarine waters, rather than try to defend this part of its plan in court – and agreed to pay our legal costs.

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We were disappointed that the High Court ruled in the Government’s favour on the remainder of our challenge earlier this month.

But, in a major win for our seas, the Government has now announced that it will fill the crucial gaps identified in our challenge by including all coastal areas and estuaries in its plan to reduce sewage dumping.

According to Good Law Project’s Legal Director, Emma Dearnaley, this success shows how a legal campaign can make positive change.

“The Government has its back to the wall over its handling of the sewage crisis,” Dearnaley said. “The public cares deeply about the filthy state of our rivers and shores, and is – understandably – demanding urgent action so that sewage pollution stops. We are delighted that, as a result of our legal challenge, the Government has revised its plan to include all coastal waters and estuaries.”

The Government has announced an extra £4bn to tackle storm overflows, in addition to the £56bn promised in 2022, and says it will prioritise designated areas protecting marine ecosystems and shellfish.

But there is more work to be done.

“While we really welcome the expansion of the Government’s plan,” Dearnaley said, “it could – and should – still do more to protect marine waters. And we’re scoping other legal challenges so we can continue to hold the Government and water companies to account over what has become one of the biggest environmental scandals of our time.”

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