A pop star from the 1970s and 1980s recently visited Salisbury for a community roundtable conversation about river pollution.

Feargal Sharkey, who was the lead vocalist of punk band The Undertones, joined the Labour candidate for Salisbury Matt Aldridge on Tuesday, June 11. 

The pair spoke to a crowd of wild swimmers, kayakers, anglers, water engineers, scientists and other all-round river health campaigners at The Orangery on Crane Street.

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The event took place at The Orangery, which looks out across the River AvonThe event took place at The Orangery, which looks out across the River Avon (Image: Newsquest)

Sharkey is also a lifelong fly fisherman and has been campaigning against the pollution of British rivers, particularly chalk streams, becoming a figurehead in preventing water companies from dumping sewage into UK waterways and coasts.

Feargals' talk sparked a lively discussion amongst the group, with attendees expressing concerns and disgust over declining water quality, unfit legislation, and a legacy for future generations.

Not one of Salisbury’s five rivers is in 'good' overall health, according to a report by the Rivers Trust. 54 per cent of the stretches of river in Salisbury have failed to achieve good health due to activities that were attributed to the water industry, including the discharge of treated and untreated sewage.

Feargal Sharkey said: “Up at the top of the river, last year, one pumping station belonging to Wessex Water spent 4120 hours dumping sewage into the top of the riverhead. That is the equivalent of one sewage plant dumping sewage non-stop, 24 hours a day, for 175 days.

"I’m frequently asked, ‘And the Environment Agency did what exactly in response to that?’ The simple truth is that our system of regulations completely failed these rivers. There is an industry there that is more interested in its own benefit.

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Matt Aldridge and Feargal Sharkey Matt Aldridge and Feargal Sharkey (Image: Newsquest)

"Let me put it this way. Wessex Water just applied to the regulator to put your water bills up by 53 per cent between now and 2030. Since privatisation, Wessex water has paid shareholders £4.25 billion of your money.

“There are people who will save for years and it will be a trip of a lifetime to come to this country and be allowed to stand on the banks of the Nadder and Avon and the Bourne, and cast a fly on those hallowed waters of Frank Sawyer and all the heritage that comes before.

"I am not alone or prepared to destroy these rivers any further, and I’ve decided that while I still have breath in my body, I will do everything I can to correct the damage that has been done to them.

"I will ensure they continue to have a prosperous and successful future, and that in another thousand years’ time, people can come to this town and stare at wonderment at the cathedral, and stare wonderment at the river Avon, and say ‘I've never seen anything like it.’ And that thought, for me, is worth preserving them.”

Matt Aldridge said: “I spent my childhood swimming and fishing in rivers of Salisbury, especially the Avon. I want my daughter to enjoy them too, but they now fail to meet basic standards. That’s why it’s so important that we work with advocates like Feargal Sharkey, and it’s why I’m so passionate about representing Salisbury for Labour.

“Labour will put water companies under special measures to clean up our waters, including putting an end to ‘self-monitoring,’ giving our regulator the power to block bonuses, introducing severe fines for illegal pollution, and criminal charges for serial pollution offenders.

“As a civil servant who worked in clean energy and climate change, I’ve worked with regulators, and I know how to make policy change happen.”

The other candidates standing in Salisbury are: 

- Victoria Charleston: Liberal Democrat

- John Glen: Conservative

- Chris Harwood: Climate Party

- Julian Malins: Reform UK

- Barney Norris: Green Party

- King Arthur Pendragon: Independent