Lewes District Council becomes first Council in England to recognise the ‘Rights of Rivers’ 

A ground-breaking motion brought by Green Party on Monday committed Lewes District council to producing a ‘Rights of River Declaration’ within 2 years, which will recognise that the River Ouse has intrinsic rights such as the right to flow and the right to be free from pollution.

Green Party Councillor  Matthew Bird, who is also the Lead Member for Sustainability,  said “Our waterways face constant harm from pollution, road runoff, development and climate change and the health and wellbeing of our local river is severely threatened. Water companies don’t act and The Environment Agency seems toothless.This motion is about valuing the river in its own right and rethinking our relationship with nature.”

The Motion had the support of the Ouse and Adur Rivers Trust, Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Environmental Law Foundation. ‘Rights of Rivers’ is a growing international movement and was introduced as a concept at the Love Our Ouse River Festival in September last year where local people from across Lewes District proposed a draft Charter for the River Ouse.

For further  information contact Cllr Matthew Bird  07890 617247 Matthew Bird matthew.bird@ymail.com 


For further  information contact Cllr Matthew Bird  07890 617247 Matthew Bird matthew.bird@ymail.com 

Motion was passed Monday 20th February 2023  – for webcast of lively debate & text of motion see item 11A here – https://democracy.lewes-eastbourne.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=431&MId=3657&Ver=4  

Further background – 

Momentum has been growing globally to extend legal rights to nature and in some cases specifically to rivers. Whereas individuals (and companies) have rights to protect themselves legally against criminal damage, injury etc, rivers do not.

Rights of the River is about representing the river as a living entity in its own right and developing new ways of thinking about the nature we depend on for our very existence

E.g. see https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jul/17/laws-of-nature-could-uk-rivers-be-given-same-rights-as-people-aoe 

Environment News River Ouse

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