Sites of Special Sewage Interest?

  • Contributor information: CNP

River Lymington, New Forest

The river Lymington is a beautiful stream that runs through the New Forest National Park and internationally important Special Area of Conservation. Upstream, the waters are clean and pure and it’s a vital resource for the wildlife in the forest, from rare birds like nightjar and curlew and animals such as pine martin as well as the wild-roaming ponies that are so important to the ecosystem.

Downstream however it’s failing to meet good ecological status. Brockenhurst sewage works dominates the small stream – latest data obtained by River Action shows the water company poured 500 hours of raw sewage on 76 different occasions into this sensitive stream last year.

At the Roydon Woods Nature Reserve downstream of the works, there’s a beautiful old ford that crosses the river. The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust who manage the reserve have put up a sign which warns visitors not to let children and dogs play in the stream for fear of getting sick. It’s one of the main limiting factors for nature recovery of this 1000 acre reserve. The problem is that Southern Water, is not investing in the sewage works – which was not designed to cope with the 15 million visitors the New Forest receives each year, nor the impacts of climate change.

There’s huge potential for nature to play a role too – the Wildlife Trust have identified places where new wetland creation downstream of the sewage works could also help improve water quality. For all that to happen we need investment. And that stems back to water company decision making – they must be required to prioritise investment in all rivers and water bodies that are part of Protected Landscapes.  

At the moment, rivers like the Lymington that run through protected areas and protected landscapes are not given special consideration – despite these being the very places where nature could come back incredibly quickly once pollution is addressed. This is why we support an amendment to the Levelling Up Bill which would require public bodies, such as Environment Agency, Ofwat and the water companies to take action and prioritise investment in rivers such as the Lymington.  

There’s huge opportunity right now to change the fate of this beautiful river – as we explained to the Minister for Protected Landscapes when she visited the New Forest and the Roydon Woods reserve recently. Huge opportunity to make real Government’s commitment to protect 30% of land for nature by 2030 – and we urge the Government to take it.