EVER been angered by excessive work being done on rivers? The Angling Trust is taking up anglers' complaints and launched an investigation into the continued habitat destruction carried out by the Environment Agency.

The Trust has uncovered loads of evidence from anglers of the destruction of habitat for fish and other wildlife. They say its caused by EA contractors carrying out flood defence works on rivers in six English counties.

In one particularly perverse example, the Royal Tunbridge Wells AS had received a grant of £2,000 from the EA for habitat improvements including tree planting on the River Medway in Kent. But anglers were shocked in December 2016 to find another department destroying habitat just downstream.

THE RIVER MEDWAY BEFORE…

…THE RIVER MEDWAY AFTER.

Other rivers hit with tree clearance this winter include

  • Trent around Holme Pierrepont, Notts.
  •  Lea at Fishers Green, Essex.
  • Idle in Retford, Notts.
  • South Yorkshire’s Don and Dearne
  • Mole in Surrey
  • Wensum in Norfolk

And the Trust had received further information from anglers in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Hampshire, Warwickshire, Surrey and Kent in response to an appeal.

Their Facebook post reached over 68,000 anglers and almost 10,000 engaged with the thread, demonstrating the scale of the issue.

Evidence of river destruction

Evidence compiled by the Trust to demonstrate the impact of the works has been sent to the EA.

In response to these complaints, Judy Proctor, deputy director for Fisheries at the EA has written to the Trust. She confirmed that the Agency has reviewed their existing guidance around channel maintenance works.

Clive Rainger, chairman of Royal Tunbridge Wells AS, explained: “The EA have been extremely professional and very helpful in assisting us to improve the habitat and fish stocks on this stretch of the Medway, but the flood prevention department have clearly not been working in unison.

“Although we managed to stop the damaging work by the contractors before it was completed, they had already undone some of our hard work.”

‘Waste of scarce public resources’

Mark Lloyd, chief executive of the Trust, said: “The removal of trees and in-river debris is particularly perverse because the EA also funds work to plant riverside trees to shade the water and other projects to install flow-deflectors to create fishery habitat.

“It constitutes both a scandalous waste of scarce public resources and a disregard for the sensitivity of the water environment,” he added.

This river stretch was one of a number reported in recent months to have been stripped of its trees.

An EA spokesperson said: “We carry out vital flood defence work along rivers in order to protect people’s lives and property – that is our top priority but we are also committed to protecting wildlife and improving habitats.

“We consult with local groups to agree our programme of flood maintenance and carefully consider the work we undertake to ensure that any impact on wildlife or to anglers and other river users is kept to a minimum.”

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