Gillian Keegan has written to both the Environment Agency Area Director and Portsmouth Water to express her concerns over the rate of water abstraction from the River Ems that runs through Westbourne.
The issue raised with the MP by members of the community and local councillors at both County and District, Cllr Mike Magill and Cllr. Roy Briscoe respectively. At present, the flow of water is being artificially stifled due to abstraction rates allowed under licence to extract water from an aquifer near the river's source.
The rare chalk stream is home to species such as Red Algae, insects, orchids, water voles, as well as larger mammals like badger and deer. Current water abstraction is causing a significant water-level decline, which has led to the formation of a group called Friends of the Ems (FOTE) in Westbourne.
The trio, of elected members, represent each of the three main tiers in Government and have pledged to work together with the community on this campaign.
Gillian Keegan said, “I am deeply concerned about the reports of high levels of water extraction at this rare and important ecological habitat. I am grateful to the community who have taken a proactive approach and raised this issue with myself and their local councillors. I will continue to work closely with Mike and Roy on this issue and will be supporting this campaign with the local community. I have made a webpage on my website where I will post updates, including the responses to my enquiries: https://www.gilliankeegan.com/campaigns/protecting-river-ems
Councillor Mike Magill, West Sussex County Council said, “I’m really pleased that members of my community brought this issue to my attention and that we have already been able to mobilise so many people in Westbourne to get behind the campaign. I am especially grateful to Gillian who on hearing this news jumped into action.”
Councillor Roy Briscoe, Chichester District Council said, “It is brilliant to have such a massive movement of support for our campaign to preserve such a significant natural habitat that supports so many rare species. I have been in discussion with Natural England to get the river an SSSI designation as it is one of a few clean Chalk Streams left, less than 200 remain worldwide.”