Feargal Sharkey puts River Frome pollution in the spotlight

CLEAN rivers campaigner Feargal Sharkey visited the River Frome to highlight pollution ahead of the general election.

Previously best known as the former lead singer of rock band The Undertones, in recent years he has become an outspoken campaigner against sewage and agricultural pollution of Britain’s waterways.

Feargal has called out water companies and the government over water pollution and visited the Frome Valley Walkway in Winterbourne in June, as part of the election campaign of Labour’s candidate in the Filton & Bradley Stoke constituency, Claire Hazelgrove.

In April the Voice reported that the Frome did not have a single stretch in good ‘ecological health’, according to environmental charity the Rivers Trust, which analysed Environment Agency figures for chemical pollutants and the presence of animal species.

In May we reported that raw sewage was flushed into the River Frome for more than 4,000 hours last year, from eight combined sewer overflows between Iron Acton and Winterbourne.

The river flows through the Thornbury & Yate and Filton & Bradley Stoke constituencies in South Gloucestershire, before passing through Bristol North East and Bristol East, then entering the Floating Harbour in Bristol Central.

Feargal, who is vice-chair of campaign group River Action and president of SERA, the Labour Environment Campaign, said: “People in Winterbourne and across the Filton and Bradley Stoke constituency have a wonderful opportunity to enjoy time in nature with the Frome Valley Walkway here.

“There’s just one problem – the River Frome is highly polluted and essentially ecologically dead.” 

Ms Hazelgrove said Conservative “mismanagement has spoiled our natural spaces”. She said Tory Jack Lopresti had “voted to allow sewage dumping” during a vote on a ban proposed in Parliament last year. 

What the other parties say

It was a point also made by Liberal Democrat Claire Young, who is standing in the upstream Thornbury & Yate constituency, about her Tory rival Luke Hall.

She said Mr Hall voted against a law that would have seen water companies in court for sewage spills.

Ms Young said: “The Lib Dems have been campaigning against sewage in the Frome for decades.”

The Lib Dems are proposing making water firms ‘public benefit companies’ and introducing a ‘sewage tax’ on water company profits.

The Conservatives have published a ‘Plan for Water’ in their manifesto, which includes “working with the regulator to further hold companies to account, including banning executive bonuses if a company has committed a serious criminal breach”.

The plan also proposes “using fines from water companies to invest in river restoration projects, including linking up thriving habitats to multiply the benefits for wildlife and water quality”.

The Green Party is proposing bring the water companies back into public ownership as “the only way to end the scandal of our filthy water”.

Reform UK has not included river pollution in its “Our Contract with You” document.

You can find statements from all of the Filton & Bradley Stoke candidates here.

Thornbury & Yate candidate statements can be found here.

Bristol North East candidate statements can be found here.