Lib Dems call for protected status for local rivers

Daniel Callaghan, Liberal Democrat candidate for Richmond & Northallerton.

The Liberal Democrats have called for a new protected status for local rivers after figures revealed that Yorkshire Water dumped sewage 5,114 times in the Richmond and Northallerton constituency area in 2023.

Analysis of official data from the Environment Agency by the party showed that Yorkshire Water discharged sewage in Richmond & Northallerton’s waterways for 41,968 hours in 2023.

In an effort to tackle sewage dumping, the Liberal Democrats have announced an expansion of marine protected areas and a new Blue Flag status for rivers will be included in the party’s general election manifesto.

The introduction of Blue Flag status would set legally binding targets to prevent sewage dumping in those sites, giving special protected status for swimmers and wildlife.

Nationally the party recently announced plans to abolish Ofwat, introducing a new regulator with greater powers, which follows its plans for a ban on water company executive bonuses.

And just before the election was called, neighbouring Lib Dem MP Tim Farron tabled a motion in Parliament that would have criminalised water companies that fail to tackle spills of this kind.

Daniel Callaghan, Liberal Democrat candidate for Richmond & Northallerton, said: “Richmond & Northallerton’s precious rivers and streams have been destroyed after years of a Conservative government letting water firms get away with environmental vandalism.

“It is time we got tough on polluting and profiteering water firms, yet Conservative MPs have stood by whilst swimmers have become ill and wildlife killed by sewage discharges.

“Just a week before the election was called, the Conservatives voted against a Lib Dem motion in Parliament that would have criminalised water companies that let these spills happen, while Labour abstained.

“This scandal has to end now. The Conservatives have failed to protect swimmers and wildlife.

“The Liberal Democrats will have the boldest manifesto on cleaning up our rivers and coastlines. Families should be free to swim safely in the knowledge that our waters are not polluted with sewage.”