Plans to clean up England’s waterways and rivers from sewage pushed back from 2027 until 2063

The Environmental Agency has moved the plans to clean up England’s waterways back by 36 years, with the delay criticised by wildlife groups

<p>All of England’s waterways - rivers, lakes and coastal areas - are said to be in poor ecological condition. (Credit: Getty Images)</p>

All of England’s waterways - rivers, lakes and coastal areas - are said to be in poor ecological condition. (Credit: Getty Images)

The Environmental Agency has announced that plans to clean up England’s waterways have been delayed by 36 years. The agency confirmed that original plans to clean rivers, lakes and coastal waters of sewage and agricultural materials has been moved back from 2027 until 2063.

Waterways in the country have been under the microscope over the past year, after it was revealed that sewage companies had been dumping their waste into rivers and coastal areas of the UK. It resulted in dozens of pollution warnings being issued in England and Wales for popular bathing and swimming spots.

Currently, all 3,651 areas in England are said to be in poor ecological condition. The plans to clean the waterways up will hope to restore every river, lake and coastal area as close as possible to its natural state.

The Environmental Agency has said that more time is needed to allow this to happen. Executive director of the body, John Leyland, said: “Whilst progress has been made to protect and enhance England’s waters, it is clear that considerable time and investment will still be needed if we are to see the further improvement in our water environment that we all want.”

What has been the reaction?

The Wildlife Trust has criticised the delay to the cleanup. Ali Morse, water policy manager for the Wildlife Trusts, said: “For too long we have allowed our rivers and lakes to become poisoned, decimating aquatic wildlife and habitats.

“We need ambitious targets to repair the immense damage inflicted on our natural world. Instead, the government is comfortable with kicking action on rivers into the long grass. At this rate, a great deal of us will not see England’s rivers and lakes given a clean bill of health in our lifetimes – and that is nothing short of a tragedy.”

Jim McMahon MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, lambasted Environment Secretary Therese Coffey for extending the deadline. He said: “It’s quite remarkable that only two months into the role, Thérèse Coffey has already managed to breach her own statutory deadline for publishing environmental targets; announced to Parliament that stopping sewage dumping is not her priority and released a plan that inflicts more sewage dumping on our country, for longer.

“Clearly Dr Dolittle is going for gold in outdoing her first chaotic and sewage-filled spell as environment minister. It’s clear we have a Tory government that has given up on governing. Labour has a plan to clean up the Tory sewage scandal, by introducing mandatory monitoring with automatic fines, holding water companies to account for sewage pollution and ensuring regulators enforce the rules.”