The Salmon & Trout Association (STA) has lodged an unprecedented legal complaint with the European Commission (EC) against the Government, which it says has failed in its duty to protect English chalk streams.

The EU Habitats Directive makes provision for chalk rivers and streams, but only four of the 161 in Britain have been designated as Special Areas of Conservation under it: the Hampshire Avon, the Itchen, the Wensum and the Lambourn.

The STA says that the condition of these falls below targets outlined by the directive. Of particular concern is the deterioration of the Avon’s Atlantic-salmon population-the STA feels the Government has not addressed issues of over-abstraction, nutrient pollution and siltation. ‘Delivery of [the Habitats Directive] is not optional-it is required by law,’ says Guy Linley-Adams, the solicitor who drew up the complaint.

‘It is regrettable that the STA has to appeal to the EC for help in ensuring that the Hampshire Avon and its salmon are protected.’ The STA believes the recently published draft Water Bill offers an opportunity for the Government to deal with many of the griev-ances. The GWCT is backing the move. Chief executive Teresa Dent says: ‘We are strongly in favour of practical solutions, working wherever possible in partnership with interested parties, including farmers and developers.’