A CAMPAIGN to help save chalk streams is gathering pace.

A Chalk Streams Summit was held in London to discuss the threats to streams such as the Itchen and Test with growing dismay about their worsening state.

Lord Chidgey, the former Eastleigh MP, attended the summit and has raised the issue recently citing the pollution of the rivers Arle and Itchen from agricultural run-off.

Lord Chidgey, who lives in Alresford, said: “The plans are encouraging but the reality is the authorities are working to a timescale of returning the quality of all our rivers and streams to a good standard by 2050.

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"This is far too late, particularly as the demand for clean water supplies increases all the time.

"I hope that the forthcoming Environment Bill will provide Parliament with the opportunity to give these issues the attention they deserve.”

He has been critical of local farming operations, particularly watercress, and the soon-to-close Bakkavor packing plant near the town: “It’s important that Bakkavor are held to account before they leave the area and that penalties are swift and severe. Others inclined to break the law must be discouraged."

Bakkavor was washing vegetables grown elsewhere and the water was then discharged into the Arle. It is closing the plant this autumn, with the loss of around 100 jobs, citing the loss of a major customer.

It comes as the Environment Agency is looking nationally at pollution into rivers from farming operations.

The charity Salmon & Trout Conservation has been campaigning on the issue raising the threat of chemicals harming invertebrates including mayflies and caddis flies.

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Only 16% of English rivers are rated as being in good health.

An EA spokesperson said: “We will take tough action against any company or individual who causes significant pollution and damage to the environment. We have already taken direct action with Bakkavor and learnings from this work are being incorporated into our approach with other companies we regulate. This includes assessing risks at other sites and prioritising the most sensitive locations.”

Dr Janina Gray, of S&T, said not enough was being done to check chemical pollution from the sites. “No one thought it was an issue until they looked,” she said. “We urged the EA to look at other discharge permits from food washing because we believe these could also be discharging pesticides into rivers.”