RLCP Update May 2021

After many years of deterioration our River Lark is set to improve over the next few years – A massive effort is underway! (Press release for Bury Free Press on 07.05.2021)

A new Lark pollution report and Action Plan sets out how some key missing objectives can be achieved with the active leadership and help of Jo Churchill MP: “I am delighted to work with the action group, taking steps to ensure that our valuable Chalk Streams and their special eco-systems are protected and revitalised.  It will take the effort of all of us to achieve this – bringing everyone together and ensuring we achieve change is my driving force”

Andrew Hinchley of the River Lark Catchment Partnership states: “We really welcome this report and that we have been invited to ensure the complete action is realised.”

Working together the River Lark Pollution Review and Action Plan represents the work of a collaborative action group of organisations that have come together, including Anglian Water, the Environment Agency, Norfolk Rivers Trust, the Rivers Trust, and the Riverfly Partnership.

The report and action plan provide evidence of the poor health of the River Lark, conveying a better understanding of the pressures and state of the Lark, and identifying the actions needed to move towards a river with a water quality that we can all take pride.

Geoff Brighty (Rivers Trust and Norfolk Rivers Trust) who has led the report development states: “Certainly, parts of the Lark do still remain in a state resembling what you could expect a chalk stream to look like. However, for the most part the Lark has been degraded and has been ‘hanging on’ for a few years, thanks to interventions by local volunteers and the River Lark Catchment Partnership and it’s member organisations.”

Geoff adds: “While there remain questions of why the Lark is reaching new ‘lows’, the river has recently faced three years of hot, dry summer weather and sustained abstraction, coupled with the combination of point source and wider catchment diffuse pollution from both town and land management. This is leading to a potentially lethal, unsustainable combination of increasing pressures of pollution and water demand. This has a moral and a legal imperative – this should not be happening”

Jo Churchill adds: “The time is now.  There is the will and ambition with legislation around water quality, data and outflows poised to help – this report helps direct our action to bring our Chalk Streams back to health so that our environment and wildlife are able to thrive for now and the future.”

One of the world’s precious chalk streams The Lark and its tributary streams are part of a historic heritage which goes back 1000 years.

Chris Gerrard, Anglian Water states: “Around 85% of the world’s chalk streams are found in the UK, many of them in our region. Anglian Water fully support plans to protect and enhance the unique habitat they provide, and are working hard to mitigate any impact we have on them from our own activity”


Phosphates The report identifies phosphate pollution as the Number 1 pollution enemy in the Lark. Phosphates are found both in run-off from upstream agricultural land and in even greater amounts from treated effluent reaching the river after going through our sewage treatment works.

Chris Gerrard states: “Anglian Water are heavily committed to improving the River Lark. Through our Water Industry National Environment Programme we’re already investing in multiple phosphate removal schemes and chemical investigations at our WRCs, as well as several river restoration programmes and river support schemes.”

The report identifies that the national programme does not prioritise chalks streams like the Lark or the largest of the Anglian Water Lark-side treatment works. Setting the priorities needs to take account that the Lark has a low flow but has to deal a considerable phosphate level to deal with wastewater from Bury St Edmunds residents.

Storm Overflows In heavy rainfall many treatment works become overwhelmed and the result is untreated sewage reaches the river. Chris Gerrard of Anglian Water states: “As part of our Water Industry National Environment Programme we’re already investing in schemes which will help to protect and improve chalk streams like the River Lark. At £800million between 2020 and 2025, our programme is the largest out of any water company with double the number of obligations than our previous plan.”

The report points out that the largest Lark treatment works is not firmly scheduled for an upgrade to reduce or remove these overflows and that the report partners are resolved to ensure that in the next investment period (2025-2030) this work is scheduled.


The River Lark Catchment Partnership is a community group tasked by the Government’s DEFRA and Environment Agency to support improvement of the Lark and it’s water catchment (the area of land drained by the Lark). The Lark catchment includes almost all West Suffolk.

For queries, phone Andrew Hinchley, Chairman of the River Lark Catchment Partnership mobile 07720 842 508

Anglian Water is the supplier of fresh water and wastewater treatment in the Lark catchment. All it’s ten local treatment works are adjacent to the Lark or it’s tributaries.

The Environment Agency is responsible for the wellbeing of all England’s rivers. The agency has the lead role in deciding how the £800 million environment spend by Anglian Water every five years is deployed.

The Norfolk Rivers Trust plays a major professional role across East Anglia in river improvement.

The Riverfly Partnership supports the management and conservation of freshwater environments through surveying of aquatic insects such as invertebrates. Angler Ian Hawkins leads volunteer surveying on the Lark and other East Anglian rivers.


This press release has focussed on how we can complete the improvement of the Lark by the end of the decade-the “final ascent”. Meanwhile many organisations and 100s of volunteers are working to help take the Lark forward over the next 5 years to be ready for that “final ascent”

River Lark Catchment Partnership

Volunteers are working on river restoration supported by a Heritage Lottery project: Brecks, Fen Edge and Rivers, with financial support from the Environment Agency. Member angling organisations Bury Trout Club and LAPS, Lark Angling and Preservation Society are also working to restore the river.

Anglian Water plan to cap a number of their Lark water extraction points. This will be the first time the Lark will see reduced abstraction for the first time in many decades of increasing abstraction. Two Bury St Edmunds boreholes will see a reduction in extraction. Additionally, AW will remove polluting phosphate from all three of their Lark tributary treatment works.

Water sensitive farming- to fight badly polluting run-off

Geoff Brighty says: “Norfolk Rivers Trust are working closely with Natural England, NFU and the Environment Agency in the Lark catchment to deliver Water Sensitive Farming (WSF) projects and advice, working with local farm businesses such as Elveden, and WSF is part funded by Coca Cola & Tesco via a partnership with WWF. We understand how wider land management can impact on water quality and the benefits of reducing risks at a field level can for both farmers and the aquatic environment.

So far, we have helped fund interventions such as catch/cover crops, vegetated headlands, tramline disruption, silt traps, farm wetlands and track improvements, but we want to work with more farms to implement positive change at across the whole Lark river catchment.”

Better intelligence on the Lark-where is our water coming from under the ground?

Geoff Brighty adds: “The Rivers Trust are leading the new EU Interreg Water for Tomorrow project, alongside Environment Agency, Water Resources East, and two French partners BRGM and CABBALR, which will develop and test innovative decision-making support systems, management tools and processes in water resources. These will enable more responsive short-term management, and better long-term planning and investment in water management at a local scale in 5 pilot areas across the partnership, one pilot is the Cam and Ely Ouse Catchment which the River Lark Catchment Partnership will engage through.”

River Lark Pollution Review and Action Plan

We are very pleased to be circulating the final River Lark Pollution Review and Action Plan which was presented to Jo Churchill MP in final draft form recently.

Thanks to Geoff Brighty, Rivers Trust and Norfolk Rivers Trust for both leading the work since it kicked-off at the end of November 2020 and writing/editing the Pollution Review.

Sam Hurst from the Norfolk Rivers Trust has brought a wealth of experience in editing and pulling together a Lark evidence base, which is being handed over to RLCP as an ongoing database.

River Lark Pollution Review and Action Plan

Contributing Authors

Sam Hurst – Norfolk Rivers Trust

Ian Hawkins – Riverfly Partnership

Andrew Hinchley – River Lark Catchment Partnership (Chair)

Jim Stephens – River Lark Catchment Partnership

Chris Gerrard – Anglian Water

Sam Westwood – Anglian Water (and CamEO)

Jessie Leach – The Rivers Trust

Becks Mundy – Natural England

Rob Bakewell – Environment Agency

Rob Clapham – Environment Agency

Steve Hopper – Environment Agency

Thanks to Ian Hawkins for initiating contact with Jo Churchill from which this Review and Action Plan emerged.

Catchment Appraisal

Please find the River Lark Catchment Appraisal attached below. Defining the problem of the Larks poor ecological health and pathways to improvement, this document provides the evidence base for the Lark Pollution Review and Action Plan.

River Lark Catchment Appraisal

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.