Degraded Chalk Stream Environments

Part of Petition - Shelton Road Planning Application – in the House of Commons at 8:10 pm on 22nd July 2019.

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Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Conservative, North East Hertfordshire 8:10 pm, 22nd July 2019

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Mr Walker for his remarkable and important efforts in this area.

In my constituency, we have eight chalk streams: the Upper Rhee, the Rib, the Ash, the Quin, the Beane, the Mimram, the Lea—near Bayford, where I think my hon. Friend fishes—and the Ivel. There has been some progress with the Beane and the Mimram following the WWF campaign “Rivers on the Edge”, of which Martin Salter was a strong supporter and about which we had debates in this House. There has been a 90% reduction in abstraction at Whitehall pumping station near Watton-at-Stone, and the Fulling Mill pumping station at Welwyn Garden City was completely decommissioned; that represented some success.

As my hon. Friend said, however, the condition of the northern part of the rivers is very dry. The Upper Rhee is dry, and there is a lot of concern about the Rib in the Standon area and north of Standon. The situation is similar with the Ash and the Quin. The Beane at Walkern, north of Watton-at-Stone, is short of water. There is a campaign in the constituency of my hon. Friend Bim Afolami about the Mimram. The Lea is low, and the Ivel springs in Baldock are so dry that people regularly write to me to express their concern.

It is worth thinking about what the unique chalk stream environment is like. My constituency has small hills, between which are the chalk streams, and they create a unique environment with unique flora and fauna. Nestling in the environment provided by these ecosystems are flowers such as saxifrage, as well as small English crustaceans and the water vole. Tewinbury nature reserve is a very good place to measure the activity of flies and little creatures, and that is a remarkable thing to do. I pay tribute to the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, which does so much to support that.