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Legal complaint launched over state of the Avon
FUTURE prospects for the Hampshire Avon are bad and deteriorating at an alarming rate, say experts.
The Salmon and Trout Association says the famous chalkstream is a shadow of what it was in the 1980s and the UK Government and its agencies have failed to protect the river and its inhabitants as required by law.
Now the association has lodged a formal complaint with the European Commission against the UK Government for failing to protect English chalkstreams as required under the EU Habitats Directive.
The UK hosts almost all the chalkstreams of Europe, but of 161 chalk rivers and streams across England, only four have been designated under the Habitats Directive – the Hampshire Avon, Itchen, Wensum and Lambourn.
The condition of these four rivers is poor, says the association.
The association has examined whether activities over the years by agencies such as the former National Rivers Authority and the Environment Agency, including abstraction and effluent discharges, have had, or could have, an impact on the river and its species, including the Atlantic salmon.
The complaint says the UK Government has failed, or is likely to fail, to comply with the Habitats Directive.
The complaint alleges the Government has failed to establish the necessary conservation measures and appropriate management plans to protect natural habitats and species of the River Avon.
The association says the Atlantic salmon population in the Avon is under severe threat after conservation limits set for its long-term viability were not met.
Paul Knight, chief executive officer of the association, said: “We have been forced to take this action by the failure of ambition and delivery on the part of the UK Government and its agencies. The prospects for chalkstream habitats are bad and deteriorating.
“Their long-term viability is far from assured. Yet the UK has failed to get to grips with over-abstraction, reduced flows, nutrient inputs and a range of other issues which combine to cause chalkstream malaise.
“The condition of the salmon population of the Hampshire Avon is very poor and is deteriorating - it is a shadow of its 1980s levels. The UK Government and its agencies understand why this is happening, but they have singularly failed adequately to address the root causes – low flows, over-abstraction, nutrient pollution, siltation.
“The Hampshire Avon is an SAC, part of the European network of the most valuable and protected nature conservation sites in Europe. If the UK Government isn’t prepared to show the necessary political will and ambition to protect nature here, one is left to wonder where it will.”