Pickering anglers have won a historic legal victory against the government and the Environment Agency for faulty river improvement plans.

Fish Legal, acting on behalf of the Pickering Fishery Association, challenged the government on the River Basin Management Plan for the Humber district.

Today (20 November), Justice Lieven ruled that the government and Environment Agency (EA) had failed in their legal duties.

The North Yorkshire anglers argued that the current plan did not meet the legal requirements to restore the Upper Costa Beck.

The Northern Echo: Pickering fishermen at the High Court

Martin Smith, Pickering Angling Association Secretary, said: "This court case has found that the EA have not carried out their statutory duties as set out in the Water Framework Directive Regulations.

"The process is broken somewhere along the line.

"EA staff I have worked with are brilliant. I have no complaints against them but as an organisation they must be frustrated.

"Today we have had a fantastic victory. 

"We have to work with the EA. We expect them to put the big boy pants on and fix this problem."

The case was heard over two days at the Royal Courts of Justice on July 12 and 13.

The court found that the public consultation process by the EA was unlawful because it failed to provide the necessary information for anglers on the beck to understand what action they were proposing to address causes for the fish failure.

The court ruled that they defeated the right of the public to participate and contribute to the river planning process.

Andrew Kelton, Fish Legal Solicitor, said: "This case goes to the heart of why Government has failed to make progress towards improving the health of rivers and lakes in England.  

"Only 16% of waterbodies - 14% of rivers - are currently achieving ‘good ecological status’, with no improvement for at least a decade, which comes as no surprise to us having seen how the Environment Agency at first proposed, but then for some reason failed to follow through with the tough action needed against polluters in this case. 

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"The Upper Costa Beck is just one of 4,929 waterbodies, but it is a case study in regulatory inaction in the face of evidence of declining river health.

"The Environment Agency and the Government have taken a high-level, generic – and effectively non-committal – approach to the mandatory targets when what was needed was a waterbody-by-waterbody plan of real, committed action.  

"We hope this ruling will lead to widespread implementation of actual, on-the-ground improvements, not only on the Costa Beck but on every other ‘failing’ river and lake across the country."