Next week, the High Court will hear a judicial review of Government and Environment Agency decision-making that anglers claim has failed to stop two decades of pollution at Costa Beck, a small, spring-fed river in North Yorkshire.

The legal challenge, being brought by Fish Legal on behalf of Pickering Fishery Association, is focused on updated, long-term plans for the river originally put in place in 2003 under the Water Framework Directive.

Fish Legal will be arguing in court that, along with the other measures needed to restore the river’s health which remains unimplemented, old permits supposedly limiting ‘point sources’ of pollution – in particular, from Yorkshire Water’s Pickering sewage treatment works and storm overflow – should have been properly reviewed and updated under the new 2022 river basin management plan for the region and that enforcement action should have been taken against the many continuing permit breaches.

The case will be heard over two days on 12 and 13 July at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Andrew Kelton, Solicitor at Fish Legal said: “This case is about meeting targets for river health set by the Government 20 years ago. What it will show is that unless regulators and the Government are prepared to take action rather than just produce yet more unimplemented paper plans, any targets they set are meaningless and inevitably will not be met.”

He added: “We believe that the Environment Agency has failed in its legal duty to protect and restore the Costa Beck. We hope by bringing this case we can force the regulator, via the Secretary of State for the Environment, to do its job.”

Martin Smith, from the Pickering Fishery Association said: “Costa Beck has a delicate ecology that cannot possibly flourish with frequent raw sewage spills combined with other sources of pollution. Once our best fishery, it remains polluted and degraded. The Environment Agency has had 20 years to develop a plan of action to help the river, yet even now its updated plan proposes little real action. We hope this legal case will bring out into the open where it has all gone wrong.”