Gillian, met with community group Friends of the Ems (FoTE) and Portsmouth Water CEO, Bob Taylor on Friday 14th May to discuss the impact of water abstraction of the River.
Last year the MP was made aware of the community’s concerns with the rate of abstraction of the River Ems by the area’s local councillors, Mike Magill and Roy Briscoe. Since then Gillian has been working closely with the local group and their councillors to press for a reduction in the current rate. So far this has involved working with both Portsmouth Water and the Environment Agency. As restrictions have now lifted, Gillian was able to meet with the community in person and tour key sites along the river to better understand the ecological impacts of abstraction on the area’s unique habitat.
The Ems is one of only 200 chalk streams in the world and offers a unique environment for nature. The River is also significant locally as a key wildlife corridor connecting the South Downs National Park and the Chichester Harbour. Given the clear environmental importance, Gillian has also written the Chair of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) to ask if they’ll consider giving the river SSSI status (Site of Special Scientific Interest). Furthermore, Gillian has also raised the issue with the Chair of the South Downs National Park Authority, Ian Philips as the welfare of the river directly impacts the national park.
Gillian also raised the situation with the water regulator, Ofwat, at a recent meeting. During which, Gillian asked if the proposed Havant Thicket Reservoir, being built by Portsmouth Water could be a long term solution to the problem. In the shorter term, however, work has been carried out by Portsmouth Water, who have thus far been very engaged with the community, has agreed to look into the proposal further. This includes the repurposing of one of their two boreholes at the site to top up the river’s flows in the summer. The water company are also looking into other measures such as increasing discharge points, that could have a positive impact on the River flows moving forward.
After the visit, Gillian said, “It was brilliant to finally get out to the River Ems and see first hand how the change in river flow can affect the natural environment. I am hopeful that the joint meeting will bear results and I will continue working to reduce the impacts of water extraction. I have will be discussing the current licencing regime with the Environment Agency at my forthcoming meeting with their Area Director, and continue to push for greater protections along the River Ems.”
Roy Briscoe, District Councillor for Bourne said, “I am hugely grateful for Gillian’s continued commitment to protecting the River Ems. As a community, we are working on many fronts to tackle the over-abstraction of the River Ems, and I will continue to support the FoTE in their efforts.”
Bob Taylor, CEO of Portsmouth Water said, “As a community focussed local water company, Portsmouth Water ‘s normal approach is to engage fully with local stakeholders and the communities we serve. As far as the River Ems is concerned, although we already assist the natural flows in the river by pumping water directly into the river during the summer months, we are listening very carefully to the concerns expressed by Gillian and the Friends of the Ems group and are more than willing to undertake further work in order to identify improvements. We are also working closely with the Environment Agency on these matters. We are about to commence another local study of the river, assisted by the Friends of the Ems and will use the new data we obtain to focus in on a solution. By working together in this way we are confident a solution can be found.”