Agenda item

Water Quality - Environment Agency.

Representatives from the Environment Agency will attend to present to the Committee.



The Committee considered a briefing document from the Environment Agency which set out responses to questions that had previously been asked by the Committee. A copy of the briefing document marked ‘Agenda Item 10’ is filed with these minutes.


The Chairman welcomed Bryan Hemmings, Suzanne Bateman and Richard Hardy from the Environment Agency to the meeting for this item.


Arising from discussion the following points were made:


(i)         Concern was expressed that the chemical status of all rivers in the area were classified as ‘fail’.  However, the Committee was advised that in 2019 the set of chemicals that the Environment Agency was judged on was expanded to ensure activity on a wider range of chemical challenges.


(ii)        In terms of monitoring, the Environment Agency had complete coverage of the water it was responsible for.  Some monitoring stations were permanent, such as those monitoring what water companies were putting back into the water courses and others were commissioned annually.  Leicestershire was a fairly low risk area with good water quality.  Where issues such as poor farming practices were found they were targeted with inspections.  The most likely outcome was a warning or advisory note being issued to try and get the practices changed.


(iii)       The Environment Agency had a five year rolling programme in place with the water companies.  This identified outcomes and areas for improvement.


(iv)      Where industrial permits were broken, enforcement action was taken.  However, the Environment Agency tried to give organisations a chance to rectify the problem.  Local arrangements were preferred rather than a fine.


(v)        The Environment Agency had a legal obligation to consider planning applications with regard to main rivers and the flooding of main rivers.  However, if the application met the criteria there was no action that the Environment Agency could take.  The team that covered the East Midlands was small and therefore unable to undertake inspections.  It was worth noting that, although the Environment Agency sought to work with both water companies and district councils, it had no regulatory authority with regard to surface water flooding.


(vi)      The Environment Agency was keen to work more proactively with local councils to develop ideas that could be made conditional for developers.  Members were keen to support the Environment Agency in this area and undertook to provide relevant contact details.


(vii)     It was confirmed that the Environment Agency was only responsible for a list of major rivers.  Landowners were responsible for small watercourses, although they were required to report overflow of sewage to the Environment Agency who would take action if necessary.


(viii)    In response to a query about the effect of winter gritting on water quality, the Committee was advised that there were a number of ways in which water quality could be monitored, such as the number of invertebrates or chemical levels.  Rainfall would water down the salt from gritting but this was one of the reasons why the number of chemicals that the Environment Agency monitored had increased.  Trends in water quality could be viewed in the catchment data explorer on the website.


(ix)      The Environment Agency had a professional relationship with the Canals and Rivers Trust with regard to permits.  It was working to improve this relationship in other areas, such as weirs and fishing.


(x)        With regard to reducing the impact of climate change, the Environment Agency was seeking to build resilience into infrastructure, for example adding a percentage increase to flood reduction schemes to acknowledge that flooding had become more severe on a more regular basis.  The Environment Agency’s fleet would be electric by 2027 and carbon offsetting would take place to reduce the impact of major construction schemes.  Work was also being undertaken to re-establish moors in the Peak District.




(a)  That the Environment Agency be thanked for attending the meeting and the information that they have provided;


(b)  That Environment Agency staff be given the details of planning policy officers in district councils to enable them to work together proactively to reduce the impact of flooding from new developments.

Supporting documents: