As a result of their legal victory today, the Government must evaluate the use of mandatory Water Protection Zones (1) alongside voluntary steps by farmers, which have so far failed to protect these vulnerable places from farm pollution.
The environmental organisations claimed that ministerial involvement had stifled necessary action to reduce pollution from farms harming England's 'natural' crown jewels.
Sir Andrew Collins, said: It is obviously of the greatest importance that proper measures are taken as soon as possible to meet the obligations of the Directive (2). We all know our wildlife is suffering as a result of pollution and not only just wildlife, people as well."
David Nussbaum, Chief Executive, WWF-UK, said: "This takes the ministerial handcuffs off of the Environment Agency which can now better protect our most precious rivers and wetlands.
"The Government must now act with haste and put necessary measures in place to tackle pollution from farms that is devastating these specially protected sites."
Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive, the Angling Trust & Fish Legal: "This is a win for cherished species like the kingfisher, salmon and trout which are seriously threatened by this pollution.
"This is a clear message to Government that they must stop dragging their feet and they must now take the necessary steps to improve the health of these precious rivers and wetlands."
David Wolfe QC, said: "Defra and the EA's new statement should mean that they will now actively consider WPZs as the way of delivering benefits for the environment rather than waiting until other approaches had demonstrably failed before even turning to them."
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NOTES TO EDITORS
1. Water Protection Zones are the primary regulatory tool identified by the Government to tackle agricultural pollution. A WPZ provides a legal framework for introducing bespoke local measures to reflect the needs of a specific catchment that are not being tackled by existing voluntary measures.
2. Water Framework Directive: The EU's Water Framework Directive (WFD) came into force in December 2000. Its purpose is to establish a framework for the protection of inland surface waters (rivers and lakes), transitional waters (estuaries), coastal waters and groundwater to ensure that all aquatic ecosystems meet Good Status by 2015.
During the case the Judge asked the defendants to agree with the claimants what steps to be taken to progress WPZs in the future. An agreement was subsequently reached between the parties.