MPs hear chalk stream problems, including in St Albans’ River Ver, one of ‘greatest environmental scandals’ of century

PUBLISHED: 08:14 31 July 2019 | UPDATED: 08:27 31 July 2019

Water levels on the River Ver are very low. Picture: Ver Valley Society

Water levels on the River Ver are very low. Picture: Ver Valley Society

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UK chalk stream degradation is one of the two “greatest environmental scandals” of this century, the House of Commons has heard.

Broxbourne MP Charles Walker scheduled the debate about chalk streams. Picture: Parliament Live TVBroxbourne MP Charles Walker scheduled the debate about chalk streams. Picture: Parliament Live TV

MPs discussed problems with English rivers in a recent parliamentary debate, covering water abstraction, increased home-building, and global warming.

One of the dehydrated chalk streams under discussion was the River Ver - which runs from the edge of the Chilterns towards St Albans, to join the River Colne near Bricket Wood.

It feeds the problematic Verulamium Lake, and has become stagnant and shallow from over-manipulation in recent history.

Water in most rivers comes from rainfall, but the Ver is fed from groundwater aquifers and should be a crystal clear babbling brook which supports an abundance of wildlife.

There are only 200 of these chalk streams in the world, 85 per cent of which are in England - but only 25 per cent of those are intact and of good quality.

Broxbourne MP Charles Walker scheduled the debate. He said: "I find it extraordinary, given our own poor environmental record, that colleagues in this house lecture Indonesia and Brazil so freely on their responsibility to the rain forests.

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"Of course, those two countries have a huge responsibility to the rain forests, but if we cannot save the chalk streams that are literally in our own backyard, what are we doing lecturing other countries on their environmental responsibilities?"

Members of the Ver Valley Society recently recorded that water levels were eight meters below the long term average in May. It has been four years since the average was above what is expected.

In a Tweet, they urged St Albans MP Anne Main to attend the parliamentary debate but she did not take part.

Mrs Main said she was disappointed to have missed it: "I had several meetings that I had committed to and I was due to chair a debate in Westminster Hall that afternoon too.

"I have been in touch with several constituents who have written to me about this issue in recent weeks.

"Last week I wrote to the environment secretary about the River Ver and the importance of retaining and protecting our chalk streams.

"We must not abuse our precious chalk streams with over-abstraction and we need proper water conservation measures in place to ensure they are protected.

"I will be inviting the new secretary of state to visit the River Ver with me and I hope she will accept my offer."

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