The MP for Penrith and the Border, Dr Neil Hudson, has welcomed the environment secretary’s announcement this week that up to £11 million in water company fines and penalties will be reinvested back into a new water restoration fund (WRF).

The fund is part of the government's plan to clean up rivers and waterways across the country after a rise in the amount of sewage being pumped in.

A protest took taken place in the last week about the level of sewage in Windermere which was attended by prominent anti-sewage campaigner and founding member of The Undertones, Feargal Sharkey.  

The water restoration fund will offer grant funding on a competitive basis to support local groups, farmers and landowners and community-led schemes, bolstering their capacity and capabilities for on-the-ground projects to improve the water environment.

This could include activities that improve biodiversity and community access to blue and green spaces in areas where water companies have been issued with fines or penalties.

 The scheme has been criticised by Labour and the Liberal Democrats with Labour saying that the government are only ‘pretending’ they care about protecting England’s waterways.

The £11 million in fines and penalties include £800,000 from United Utilities who are in charge of the water systems in Cumbria.

“Dr Neil Hudson MP said: "This is a great campaign win for my Conservative colleagues and I who were the first to call for these measures. It is only right that we reinvest the money raised through fining water companies back into our precious waterways.

"There are no quick-fixes to such a huge infrastructure overhaul as we are witnessing - but I am proud we Conservatives have put this on the agenda and are making long-term improvements."

New figures from the Environment Agency have laid bare how much raw sewage has been dumped in north Cumbrian waterways. 

The data reveals the frequency and duration of spills from storm overflows, which release untreated sewage into rivers and the sea, particularly during heavy rainfall, to prevent sewer backups.

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The data highlights that the number of hours of sewage spills from United Utilities has risen to 656,014 hours in 2023, a significant increase from the 2022 figure of 425,491 hours.

The Liberal Democrat’s spokesperson for the environment and Cumbrian MP, Tim Farron said: "This is spare change for these water firms, who have made billions of pounds under this Conservative government's watch.

"Frankly, this is an insultingly small amount and a slap in the face for communities blighted by the sewage scandal."