A motion has been passed by Wealden councillors to investigate river damage and preservation in Wealden’s rivers and waterways.

The motion – proposed by Labour and Co-operative councillor Ben Cox and seconded by Labour councillor Daniel Manvell – requested a working group be set up by Wealden’s Overview and Scrutiny committee to study river damage and preservation, silt run off in developments close to rivers, and to work with the Environment Agency to reduce silt run off into rivers.

The motion – discussed at a recent Full Council meeting – also called for a meeting to be held between the Environment Agency, Wealden District Council officers and the chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to look at the state of the district’s rivers, and an audit to be produced by the Environment Agency regarding river damage and best practice to protect wildlife.

The overall aim of the motion is to have healthier rivers by the end of the current term in May 2027 and have a long-term plan on river restoration using the Local Plan and the Council Strategy as vehicles for progress. The motion also looked at working closely with relevant stakeholders to clean up the rivers and stop third party contaminants reaching waterways.

Councillor Ben Cox, who represents Uckfield New Town, said, “This motion aims to be the starting gun for river regeneration in Wealden. Excellent work has already been done by this council to hold Southern Water to account, but it has been at least 10 years since the Environment Agency appeared before our Overview and Scrutiny Committee. The council has agreed that we need to demand more from the Environment Agency if we are to protect our waterways.

“By passing this motion, the council now has a vision to clean up our rivers, and the mechanism to monitor silt run-off and pollution in our rivers.”

Councillor Daniel Manvell, who represents Uckfield North, said, “30% of the rivers and water bodies in and around Wealden are in poor or bad condition, which is above the national average of 20%. Only one, Arlington Reservoir, is rated ‘good’ by the Environment Agency. It is simply not good enough. Silt, chemical run-off, and water overuse are all contributing to the degradation of our waterways locally, but measuring this damage is not being regularly done. I am delighted that we will now begin to understand this problem.

“The government’s chronic underfunding of the Environment Agency has only worsened this situation, having halved its environmental protection budget since 2010.”

Councillor Ian Tysh, Alliance for Wealden (Green Party), and lead councillor for Planning and Environment, said, “I am delighted to support this motion which pledges to clean up Wealden’s rivers and waterways with the help of others.”

Following a debate, the motion was passed unanimously.