A new partnership of farmers, government, Anglian Water and the Environment Agency has been brought together to try to keep the River Deben in Suffolk clean.

Environment Secretary and Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey brought together a group of interested parties in Woodbridge to discuss how to improve water quality.

And Anglia Water confirmed that its two sewage plants at Martlesham and Melton are to be upgraded by 2030 to reduce spills and improve the quality of water released into the river.

Groups from the whole length of the river were represented as they discussed how to try to ensure there are no more sewage leaks or chemical incidents.

Dr Coffey said it was important that people with an interest in the whole of the river were invited to try to maintain a high water quality.

East Anglian Daily Times: The River Deben at Waldringfield.The River Deben at Waldringfield. (Image: iWitness)

She said: "The River Deben is a really special place, and it is so important that we look at its entire length.

"I love visiting it and I know a lot of people also do - and it's very important that it remains as clean as possible."

Over recent years there has been concern about sewage spills, and these have increased at the importance of the area becomes clearer.

Last year the Suffolk Wildlife Trust acquired the Martlesham Wilds that is becoming another important nature reserve on the river.

Dr Coffey said: "Food production is very important - but so is supporting reserves like that."

She jointly chaired the meeting with Water Minister Rebecca Pow and it also discussed the delivery of the Plan for Water, which will bring increased investment, tougher enforcement and tighter regulation to the water sector.

Key areas of discussions included the designation of bathing sites in the area; pollution resulting from storm overflows, wastewater treatment and agriculture and  water resources.

They also covered how these issues may be addressed through river catchment plans, targeting actions where they will deliver the greatest impact for water quality, flood management, and nature recovery.

Action on the ground includes using farm visits, undertaken through the Catchment Sensitive Farming Initiative led by Natural England, to check compliance with all the relevant farming regulations.

Government funding for the programme has increased to £30million a year so that all farms across the UK can access advice and support. 

Dr Coffey added: “One of the key parts of our Plan for Water is tailored long-term catchment plans with new funding for catchment groups.

"For this to succeed collaboration at a local level is vital so we can all work towards improving the water system together.”

Ms Pow said: “It is clear the River Deben is a precious habitat for many in the community but it is under pressure.

“River water quality must improve and our new Plan for Water sets out how increased investment, tougher enforcement and tighter regulation is helping tackle every source of river pollution.

“At the Deben, I look forward to seeing greater collaboration from all parties locally as this is also vital if water quality is to improve.” 

Roundtable attendees included representatives from local councils, Essex & Suffolk Rivers Trust, the NFU, Natural England, the River Deben Association and Anglian Water.

East Anglian Daily Times: The discussion included the inland stretch of the River Deben near Brandeston and Easton.The discussion included the inland stretch of the River Deben near Brandeston and Easton. (Image: iWitness)

It follows the recent announcement that a stretch of the river at Waldringfield has achieved designated bathing water status.  

In April, the government published its Plan for Water which aims to set how rivers and coastal areas should be maintained and water quality improved.

To hold water companies to account, the government has set strict new targets for water companies designed to frontload action in particularly important areas, like bathing waters and protected sites.

The Storm Overflows Reduction Plan will also require the largest infrastructure programme in water company history - £56billion capital investment over 25 years.