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Pollution in Sudbury's River Stour prompts plans for protest march to demand action

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Campaigners concerned about the pollution afflicting Suffolk’s rivers are calling for action to turn the tide, ahead of an upcoming demonstration in Sudbury.

A protest march will take place from the town centre to the River Stour on Saturday, July 23, demanding that the Government and other authorities tackle the issues of sewage and run-off polluting the water.

The procession will gather outside Sudbury Town Hall at noon, before setting off to arrive at Friars Meadow at 1pm.

The River Stour, near Croft Bridge, Sudbury. Picture: Mark Westley
The River Stour, near Croft Bridge, Sudbury. Picture: Mark Westley

A report by Essex and Suffolk Rivers Trust, published in May, revealed that none of the county’s rivers met the standards for pollution set by either the Government nor the Water Framework Directive.

Consequently, Suffolk County Council unanimously approved a motion to investigate what more can be done to clean up local rivers.

The measures included contacting MPs directly for support, working with farmers to address agricultural run-off into rivers, and exploring further biodiversity efforts.

However, Green Party councillor Jessie Carter, who represents Sudbury on the county council, said the march is intended to build pressure to ensure these actions are properly followed through, by increasing public awareness of the problem.

“There are towns all over Suffolk protesting over pollution going into rivers, whether that’s raw sewage or agricultural run-off,” she told Suffolk News. “It’s not fair and it’s not okay.

“It was quite recently that you could see raw sewage in the River Stour. There was sewage flowing from the drains and into the river.

“The fact that the Government has allowed this to happen is crazy. There’s also nothing in place to stop the run-off from farms. The whole system is flawed.

“At our last full council meeting, we acknowledged the pollution and said we’re doing something about it. Now, we all need to come together to actually get something done.”

The meeting earlier this year heard that Environment Agency funding cuts and legacy problems with drainage infrastructure had exacerbated sewage discharge into river water.

Meanwhile, agricultural sources, road run-off and historic land uses were all also identified as contributing factors to the ill health of rivers in Suffolk.

Cllr Carter said it was particularly important to highlight the pollution issue to recreational users of the River Stour, which remains popular for activities, such as swimming, fishing, canoeing and paddle boarding.

But she added that telling people that they could not use the river was the wrong approach.

“None of the rivers are up to standard for recreational use,” said Cllr Carter. “The river is used for all sorts of things and people are getting sick.

“When I speak to residents, a lot of people are not aware of the state the river is in, but then it clicks in their head because they say their child was paddling in the river and then they got sick

“But we don’t want to say to people, you can’t use the river. We don’t want to ban recreational activity. We just want the river to be safe.

“We want to come together to say that we’re not going to stand for it, and ask, what is the Government going to do about it?”