Degraded Chalk Stream Environments

Part of Petition - Shelton Road Planning Application – in the House of Commons at 8:16 pm on 22nd July 2019.

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Photo of Matt Western Matt Western Labour, Warwick and Leamington 8:16 pm, 22nd July 2019

It is a pleasure to follow Sir Oliver Heald. I congratulate Mr Walker on his speech, to which I listened increasingly intently as I sat on the Front Bench earlier. As someone who grew up in the area that he talked about, I am very familiar with much of the Hertfordshire geography and many of the wonderful landscapes that he described so passionately and fondly. It would have been very easy for me to leave the Chamber, but the threat of the loss of those habitats moved me to feel compelled to speak, and I thank him for that.

I will keep my comments brief. It is interesting that we often talk about the environmental crisis and climate emergency in various other manifestations, but we rarely talk about the threat that water shortages pose to our existence. I think we agree that climate change, as we face it, threatens us in many ways. We are experiencing a changing climate and changing weather events of a new severity. We grew up with wet Aprils, and perhaps even wet Mays, but we no longer experience them.

The climate in our country is changing, as it is across the world. We must think about how we address the challenges, whether it is by creating large reservoirs, as has been described, or by changing our housing planning policy that governs estates and new builds. We must insist on the attenuation of water on industrial and business parks and in our housing. There is so much potential to capture and re-use water with grey water harvesting systems, and all new houses must be built with them. I am proud to say that 10 years ago, I installed one, and it makes a dramatic difference to my water consumption.

These are the sorts of things we can do immediately. As has been described, we must of course build more capacity through reservoirs. I remember the Queen Mary reservoir from my youth and from driving around it, and there is such a need, as has been described. However, we can do this in addition by building capacity, on a very local basis, with our new homes. That will make a significant difference in reducing abstraction. May I again thank the hon. Member for Broxbourne? I welcome the debate, and I congratulate him on it.