Skip to main content

Hold power to account in this election and beyond

With an election imminent, it’s crucial we continue to defend democracy and hold the powerful to account.

Donate now
Case update 14 February 2023

NEW: We have a High Court hearing to force the Government into tougher action on sewage dumping

N.M.Bear / Shutterstock

We’re pleased to announce that we’ve been given a hearing in the High Court in our legal challenge to force the Government to take much tougher action to stop water companies from dumping raw sewage into our coastal waters.

We believe this could be one of the UK’s most significant environmental law cases in recent history. Our legal challenge revives an old common law legal doctrine – the Public Trust Doctrine – to force Government to take the protection of our rivers and seas seriously.

We’ve brought this case with Marine Conservation Society, Richard Haward’s Oysters and surfer and activist, Hugo Tagholm to compel the Government to rewrite its Storm Overflows Discharges Reduction Plan and make it fit for purpose.

A deluge of sewage is being discharged by water companies into our rivers and shores through a network of 14,500 storm overflows dotted across the country. But the Government’s current plan gives water companies until 2050 to improve their storm overflows and put a stop to industrial-scale sewage dumping. And the plan all but excludes coastal waters from protection.

Good Law Project is powered by people across the UKDonate now

We believe that giving the green light to this environmental vandalism for decades to come is not just unconscionable – it’s also unlawful.

The Public Trust Doctrine (PTD) has been recognised by the English Courts since at least 1299. It says that the state has a duty to safeguard vital natural resources and hold them in trust for the benefit of both current and future generations. It enshrines the right for people to fish, gather food and navigate our shared tidal waters.

Our challenge makes the case that the Public Trust Doctrine requires the Government to take positive steps to safeguard our coastal waters. Winning this case could set a landmark precedent which would enable campaigners to use this doctrine for legal challenges to compel the Government to protect our shared natural environment.

You can read the permission decision here. We are waiting for the High Court to confirm a hearing date.

This is our chance to safeguard our coastal waters for generations to come, but we need your support. If you are able to make a donation to our case, you can do so here.