A PROTEST against the dumping of raw sewage into the River Severn by Severn Trent Plc has been cancelled by the organisers due to concerns over attention from "undesirable groups".
Local environmental group Friends of Forest Waterways (FOFW) had planned to demonstrate against the discharge of untreated sewage into the river in Lydney on November 20, after MPs had voted down an amendment to the Environment Bill to place legal duties on water companies to protect UK rivers.
But the protest has now been cancelled due to fears from the organisers that the event was attracting the attention of "some pretty undesirable groups and individuals" who were looking to use the event "for the wrong reasons".
The group has also decided to change the status of their Facebook group from ’public’ to ’private’ following discussions with the police so that the admins can have greater control over who joins.
A post to the FOFW Facebook group last Tuesday evening (October 26) said: "It is with great regret that I have to announce that Friends of Forest Waterways have decided to cancel the march for 20th November 2021 in Lydney.
"This decision has not been taken lightly but it has come to light that we have gained the attention of some pretty undesirable groups and individuals that are looking at using this event for the wrong reasons.
"We have been in discussions with the Police and other authorities, it has been decided also to lock down our Facebook Group back to private from public, this will happen as of midnight on the 28th October.
"Apologies all, just a sign of the times I am afraid, we will sort it out though."
FOFW had announced the demonstration would go ahead just days earlier on Sunday, October 24, after group members Adrian Lane and Paula Simpson had found there to be high levels of phosphate and nitrate pollution in the Severn near the Lydney Sewage Works outlet pipe during recent water tests.
The protest had been organised as an attempt to convince the Government and Severn Trent Plc to take action "before it is too late", with the group saying that the discharge of sewage is causing an "ecological disaster that the river may never recover from".
The announcement followed a vote in the House of Commons on October 20 in which MPs voted against a proposal from the House of Lords which would have placed legal duties on UK water companies to reduce the discharge of raw sewage into rivers.
The proposal was defeated by 265 MPs’ votes to 202.
Forest of Dean MP Mark Harper wrote in his weekly column for The Forester that he had voted against the amendment as it would have left consumers to pay costs of between £150-600 billion to change existing infrastructure, with no cost to the water companies.
He added that the measures he voted for in the Environment Bill would "deliver duties to tackle pollution".
Since then, a huge backlash from the public on social media has forced a partial U-turn from the Government, with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announcing last Tuesday (October 26) that there would be a new amendment put forward to "ensure water companies secure a progressive reduction in the adverse impacts of discharges from storm overflows", which are used at times of heavy rainfall to prevent sewers becoming overloaded by sewage and rain.