As anglers, we know that pollution in our rivers and waterways is a real and growing issue. Whether you’re an angler, a paddler, dog walker or general nature lover, everybody is well aware of the regular news stories that depict human detritus, either naturally produced or artificially manufactured, slowly killing the watercourses and much of the natural life that surrounds it.
The problem has been around for far too long and the general feeling across the nation is that water quality is now a hopeless basket case. It is an issue that sits at the heart of our Anglers Against Pollution campaign.
A current Environment Agency consultation process on government-backed River Basin Management Plans for the next seven years provides an opportunity to make a noise for the sake of positivity and improvement.
Alongside other interest groups and general members of the public, we can of course, simply sit back and continue to moan about dwindling catch rates, criticise the authorities for doing little or nothing about it and expect the Angling Trust and Feargal et al to keep popping heads above parapets. We will, but the more voices that join us the louder we’ll be.
We want to take the opportunity provided by public consultation to use our collective voice and put pressure on those same authorities to do much, much more.
Yes, we know it sounds like we’ve all been here before and in truth, we have. But right now, we’re currently experiencing one of those moments when we, as individuals have the chance to speak directly and collectively to the government and force them to produce better plans to counteract an ever-growing problem.
Sadly, many people don’t know this current opportunity to get it off their chest even exists. After all, River Basin Management Planning is not exactly ‘sexy’ and doesn’t easily find its way onto the tabloid pages or populist airwaves. So, in this article, we’ve mapped out a guide that we hope will clarify the existence of this environmental soapbox and ease you through the Red Tape so you can play your part in a full-scale public consultation on clean water.
As you’d expect, the Angling Trust has a long-held historic view of how governments have dealt – or not – with this problem and you can read more about that a little later. But for now, here’s how YOU can add your view to ours.
What is The Opportunity?
The chance to speak out is housed within the Environment Agency’s River Basin Management Plan (RBMP) which in turn, is part of the government’s 25-year Environment Plan.
The current RBMP was published in 2016 and seven years on, it is currently undergoing a mandatory review. As part of that process, the EA has drafted a proposed update to the current plans which is what the period of public consultation is all about. The consultation period ends on April 22nd.
How Do I Voice My Opinions
Simply put, you review the plans and answer a series of questions that allow you to express an opinion about general principles, objectives and local focus. It’s important to understand that your answers don’t just go into one big national melting pot. The consultation pages make it clear that; “Most of the environmental objectives and targets in the draft plans are locally specific.”
You’ll have the chance to identify which of the eight basin districts your responses refer to and offer regional opinion that will assist that promise to make much of the final version of the update “locally specific”.
What Do I have To Do?
The first step, is to visit the EA’s consultation pages. From here, you’re given the opportunity to review the over-arching 25-year Environment Plan; the current RBMP plans as published in 2016 and also the currently drafted update. (Please note, the draft plans are dated “2021” as the consultation period began in October.)
There’s also a catch-all option on the main consultation page that provides an overall summary of the different parts and content of the plans. See the guide to the river basin management plans.
Can I say What I want?
As long as it doesn’t extend beyond the realms of decency, and refers to the subject at hand, you can say whatever you like. That’s the point. And if you’re not sure that what you want to say is relevant, you can check what others have said by reviewing submitted responses. This is an area where you can examine submissions from those who have given consent for responses to be published.
Will My Views Really Make A difference?
We can’t guarantee anything but it’s a free-shot and the more voices there are, the greater pressure can be asserted on the decision makers to change things for the better. The next such opportunity won’t be until 2027.
What if I Can’t Respond Online?
The EA’s preferred method is the online consultation tool but If necessary, you can send your responses by email or by post. Please contact RBMPconsultation@environment-agency.gov.uk for details.
So what does the Environment Agency say about its own draft proposals? As you can imagine (and we can’t hide from it) there’s plenty of material and verbiage to wade through even when you’re able to follow the necessary links provided in this article. But perhaps a couple of elements do stand out.
In the summary of the DRBM plans issued in October when the consultation process started, the Environment Agency said: “The aim of the river basin management plans is to enhance nature and the natural water assets that are the foundation of everyone’s wealth, health and wellbeing, and the things people value, including culture and wildlife.” (2. Why The Plans Matter)
It would seem that the key word here is ‘enhance’. So, it seems reasonable to assume an outcome that extends beyond halting a slide and presents proposals to improve things.
And that WOULD be step forward.
The draft plans also reflect that:
“It is unlikely that the existing funded measures and new initiatives currently in development will be sufficient to achieve all the environmental objectives in the plans. Therefore, the plans also present potential new measures that could help to achieve the objectives of the plans”. (5.9 Potential New Measures)
Could that mean extra funding? We’ll have to wait and see.
Historically, the Angling Trust has scrutinised and challenged the government’s RBMP as little more than a reporting tool when it needed to be a framework for positive objectives. In a joint response with Fish Legal and WWF-UK to the previous period of consultation seven years ago, the group stated:
“…we believe that the Environment Agency have missed the significant opportunity to put local communities at the heart of river basin planning to ensure that they have a strong voice in decision-making.”
More recently, an update on environmental issues from Trust CEO Jamie Cook the day before the current consultation period began, included this general promise:
“You can rest assured that we are not giving up the fight for cleaner rivers and will continue to press for meaningful action to tackle the scandal of sewage pollution.”
That pressure will undoubtedly continue and with your help in responding to the consultation process, The Angling Trust, together with its strategic partners, remains committed to forcing positive change, both now and in the future. Furthermore, as the government’s recognised National Governing Body for angling in England, it will continue to represent anglers, fight for fish, fishing and the environment. This current consultation process is the latest step upon a very long path.