Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, visited Harpenden yesterday (Thursday, July 6) to launch his party's campaign to win the new Harpenden and Berkhamsted constituency.

He joined Victoria Collins, the Lib Dem candidate for the seat, for a tour of Batford Springs Nature Reserve and the River Lea, a rare chalk stream that runs through the reserve. Afterwards, the pair gave speeches and met local party activists at an event for members.

During the visit, Mr Davey and Ms Collins discussed threats posed by a Thames Water storm overflow, situated around two miles upstream of the reserve. The water giant was recently fined £3.34m for discharging millions of litres of raw sewage into rivers near Gatwick.

Ms Collins, a local entrepreneur who has also worked on economic policy at the European Parliament, says that protecting chalk streams from sewage discharges would be one of her top three priorities as MP.

Mr Davey described Ms Collins as "a passionate champion for the environment".

He continued: "I'm excited to launch her campaign the same way I know she will continue it; by showing commitment to her three priorities which includes the fight to save local chalk streams. 

“It is shameful that water companies continue to pollute chalk streams across the country and here in Harpenden and Berkhamsted.

"These rare rivers are a hub of biodiversity and should be protected accordingly; instead, this Conservative government allows sewage to pour into them. 

“In electing Victoria, local people will get an MP that amplifies their voices and who is determined to deliver change for the area.” 

Ms Collins will be organising a meeting for campaigners and residents to discuss the ongoing sewage crisis and the government response to it.

In April, the government announced plans to curb sewage dumping by water companies with measures potentially including unlimited fines. During 2022, there were an average of 825 sewage spills per day into England's waterways.

Ms Collins said: “It’s a delight to welcome Ed Davey to Harpenden and Berkhamsted to launch my campaign today; I am determined to give this new constituency a strong voice in parliament and I want to hit the ground running. 

“Understanding the dangers our chalk streams, such as the River Lea, and our local nature reserves are facing is crucial in our battle to hold water companies to account. 

“I am sick of my local area being taken for granted by this Conservative government; a government that allows water companies to damage our beautiful waterways, that sits on their hands as ambulance wait times skyrocket and that watches local families struggle through the cost of living crisis without meaningful support. 

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“At the next election, voters will get the opportunity to vote for change. Instead of another tired, out of touch Conservative MP, they can finally have a fresh start with a hardworking Liberal Democrat MP.”

Harpenden is currently represented in the House of Commons by Bim Afolami, the MP for Hitchin and Harpenden.

He has now been selected for the new Hitchin constituency, and the Conservatives are yet to announce their candidate for Harpenden and Berkhamsted. Labour have also not decided on a candidate.

The next general election must be held no later than January 2025.

Of the 16 councillors on Harpenden Town Council, 14 represent the Liberal Democrats after this year's local elections, when the party also won control of Dacorum Borough Council.