Conservative Environment Minister labels Cumbria’s sewage scandal ‘irrelevant’

Cumbrian MP Tim Farron has said he was “gobsmacked” after the Minister for Environment, Rebecca Pow, described attempts from local campaigners in Coniston and Staveley to protect lakes and rivers from sewage as “irrelevant”.

On the floor of the House of Commons this afternoon, Tim challenged the Government as to why they had turned down so many applications for bathing water status.

A recent Parliamentary Written Question tabled by Tim has revealed that 15 of the 21 applications for bathing water status since January 2022 have been rejected, with just two granted approval.

Among the 15 rejected applications include the River Kent at Staveley, and Coniston Water.

Speaking during an Urgent Question on the oil spill at Poole Harbour, Tim said: “I thank the Minister for her diligent approach and response to this very troubling occurrence and congratulate the honourable member for bringing this to the attention of the whole House.

“She will agree with me, I am sure that, not only is there an ecological price to pay for this spillage, there will also be an impact as has been already mentioned on the potential bathing water status of Poole Harbour.

“I wonder if she’ll agree with me that bathing water status is a very important tool in ratcheting up water quality both offshore on our coast, but in all rivers and lakes as well. And I wonder if she would reflect on the fact that only 10% of the applications for bathing water status for our rivers and lakes and coastal areas last year were accepted.

“In my own constituency, Coniston Water and the River Kent were turned down despite having many, many more bathers than some rivers that were accepted.

“Would she agree that consistency is important if we’re going to keep our waterways free of oil and sewage, and would she look again at these applications that were turned down?”

Responding, the Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “Thank you, Mr. Speaker But with respect, also to the shadow minister who is sticking to the subject of this urgent question, which is so important, I would say that was somewhat irrelevant, Mr. Speaker.

“I would also say that our bathing water, well over 70% is excellent. And if you add good and excellent together, it’s over 90%.”

Speaking afterwards, Tim said: “I’m absolutely gobsmacked by the minister’s cloth eared and frankly rude response.

“She has turned her back on our communities who are crying out for ministers to take action to protect our lakes and rivers.

“Cumbria deserves better than this Conservative Government who time and time again take us for granted.”

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