Pickering pollution campaigners want to stop fighting government as appeal due over legal case

  • Video report by Sally Simpson

Campaigners say they want to "stop fighting" after the government was given permission to appeal a High Court judgement which found it failed to protect rivers and streams from pollution.

Costa Beck, near Pickering in North Yorkshire, was once known as the best fly fishing spot in the country, but local anglers took legal action after decades of decline in fish stocks and water quality.

The battle was described as a "David and Goliath case" after Pickering Fishery Association and Fish Legal defeated the government at the High Court in November last year.

The Environment Agency was given 20 weeks to remedy its River Basin Management plan but the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has said it is to appeal.

As the summer deadline approaches, Martin Smith, secretary of Pickering Fishery Association, said "time is running out for them."

"If they haven't got it done then they are in breach of a court order. So we expect them to come up with a plan this time," he said.

Martin Smith, secretary of Pickering Fishery Association, said they had spent thousands on reports to try and bring action. Credit: ITV News

If the policies are put in place and an appeal is unsuccessful, he said it would mean the end of a long campaign.

"For us we can just stop the fighting, all we want to do is get this fishery right. It's our property.

"This is our fishery. We want it to be right. It should be right and it's been polluted for decades."

Mr Smith said the beck was once "one of the greatest fisheries in the north of England" but had been "polluted for the last three decades at least."

He said: "It's been heavily dredged probably for four decades and it's ruined the beck."

Last year's ruling was described by anti-pollution campaigners as "enormous", with national implications.

The Undertones' singer Feargal Sharkey, who is now a prominent environmental campaigner, described it as a "huge achievement".

He told ITV News "[It] provides the basis that we can now start looking at what is actually wrong with every river in the country and what in reality needs to be done about it.

"Every single river in England is polluted.

"Just 14% are in good ecological condition and the Pickering Fishery Association's judgement now sets a foundation I hope will utterly transform the landscape and every river in the country."

A DEFRA spokesperson said: “We carefully considered the judgement handed down in November last year. We welcome the High Court decision to allow permission to appeal the judgement.

“We are delivering more investment, stronger regulation and tougher enforcement to clean up our waterways. This includes reforming River Basin Management Plans and delivering tailored long-term action plans for local groups.

"Defra and the Environment Agency have acknowledged the Court Order, we cannot comment further on an ongoing legal case."

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