Fish Legal has sent Natural Resources Wales (NRW) a ‘letter before action’ for failing to protect the rare Arctic char in Llyn Padarn, North Wales.

The letter sets out significant problems with the regulator’s decision that Dŵr Cymru / Welsh Water, and the nearby Dinorwig Power Station operated by First Hydro, should not be held fully liable for the damage they have caused to the protected site. The letter warns that NRW will be taken to court unless it properly addresses the environmental damage caused by these companies.

Fish Legal, acting on behalf of its member club, the Seiont, Gwyrfai & Llyfni Anglers’ Society, won an earlier judicial review case in the same matter against NRW in May 2014 after many years’ work. The anglers successfully argued that NRW had failed to apply the law correctly and so had not fully taken into account damage caused to the char and its habitat from ongoing sewage pollution. Fish Legal’s case revealed that NRW’s investigation into pollution in the lake was unlawful, and they eventually agreed to carry it out again.

Following this second investigation, NRW has told Dŵr Cymru / Welsh Water once more that it is liable for some damage to the lake, by causing a toxic algal bloom in 2009, and the water company must put forward remediation proposals for this by mid-March. However, Fish Legal is seriously concerned that the regulator has yet again failed to understand and apply the law correctly and so will not hold the responsible operators fully liable to repair the damage.

The ‘letter before action’ sets out these concerns and warns of legal action if NRW does not agree to remake their decision urgently, for a third time, but this time in accordance with the law.

William Rundle, Fish Legal Head Solicitor, says:

“Our members are sorely disappointed that decades on from first highlighting the plight of the Arctic char we are still having to address mistakes by the regulator. This case seriously brings into question not only the competency of the environmental regulator to conserve and enhance the environment, but also its resolve to do so when faced with long-term damage caused by ‘big business’. We have set out the legal issues and await the regulator’s reply.”

Huw Hughes, club secretary for Seiont Gwyrfai & Llyfni Anglers’ Society, said:

“This problem has been with us for over 20 years and NRW and its predecessors the National Rivers Authority, and then Environment Agency Wales after that, have been ignoring our warnings and they are now attempting to ignore the law. It’s about time they pulled their finger out and acted in accordance with the powers vested in them’”

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust & Fish Legal, said:

“The regulator has repeatedly failed to tackle the ongoing pollution of a beautiful upland lake with poorly treated sewage. This failure has led to the decimation of a local sub-species of Arctic char which has been living in the lake since the last ice age and it has ruined the fishing which has been enjoyed by local people and visitors for generations. We have spent tens of thousands of pounds of our members’ money trying simply to get the regulator to stop pollution being poured into the lake and to hold the water company to account for the damage it has caused.”