Living close to the River Colne, Castle Ward Councillor Simon Crow (Conservative) has been acutely aware over the past few months of the duckweed and water fern that has formed a dense carpet over the river where it runs through Castle Park. Not only does this look unsightly it can cause dissolved oxygen levels in the water leading to fish dying, and small children thinking it is a solid surface they can walk on.

Councillor Simon Crow said: “Having heard repeated claims from the council that it is the Environment Agency’s responsibility to deal with this problem I took matters into my own hands and contacted the Environment Agency myself to get to the bottom of the matter.”

Their response was a detailed email outlining their responsibilities and the responsibilities of the landowner whose land the river flows through. They made it quite clear that the removal of floating weed or soft vegetation is the sole responsibility of the riverside landowner, which in this case is Colchester Borough Council, and that the Environment Agency’s role is to intervene only when there is a risk to fish or a flood risk. The duckweed and water fern hasn’t as yet become a risk to the fish and it is not a flood risk. They also said they have given the Borough Council advice on actions that need to be taken.

Armed with this information, at full council on Wednesday night Councillor Crow raised the matter with Councillor Martin Goss, Portfolio Holder for Waste, Environment and Transportation in the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Independent coalition running Colchester, asking him who he believes is responsible for maintaining the river and dealing with this problem. Once again Councillor Goss talked about the Environment Agency’s responsibilities and refused to admit this is a problem that the Council are responsible for tackling.

Councillor Crow added: “The river is in a sorry state with this thick mat of duckweed and water fern that has sat on it throughout the summer and is still there now in mid-October. There are even drinks cans and other rubbish sitting on top of it. It is completely unacceptable for Councillor Goss to have taken no action and to continually point at the Environment Agency for something which he alone is responsible for. Sitting back throughout the summer waiting for the Environment Agency to step in once his inaction has caused a problem is reprehensible.

Conservative believe that it is time to create an action plan for future years should this problem arises again, which it very likely will. That plan needs to be created swiftly and made public so that residents can have faith that there will be no more failures of the Council to manage and care for our river.”