HAMPSHIRE MP George Hollingbery has told a conference that action must be taken now to conserve water and save local chalk streams from disaster.

Mr Hollingbery gave a keynote speech to delegates at the Chalk Stream Summit held in Stockbridge on Tuesday (December 11) to a 100-strong audience.

The Meon Valley MP is chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Angling and told the summit that the future of chalk streams, like the Itchen and Test, are in danger unless more is done to help conserve water and fight pollution.

“In the south of England we have a unique ecosystem in our chalk streams. Eighty per cent of the world's chalk streams are here in the south of England and they are to be treasured,” he said.

“But they are under pressure from over abstraction, from pollution from roads, from pollution from farming and sorting out these pressures is going to be a very difficult issue to crack.

“I cannot imagine we want to look back in 40 years at the devastation of this fantastic natural and world famous asset, so we need to do something meaningful now to help conserve and save it for future generations.

“The message from the meeting was loud and clear: now is the time to take action. Everyone at the summit agreed they will do their bit to persuade government to take action.”

The summit has agreed to put together a Charter for Chalk Streams that will list the areas that need to be addressed to save them.

“This is not just about fishing,” added Mr Hollingbery, “this is about our water supplies, which we all need, our natural environment, which is so precious and the future enjoyment of these chalk streams and their protection for future generations.”

A recent issue has been Southern Water’s plans for a pipeline taking water from the Test at Testwood to Otterbourne on the Itchen. Fishing interests on the Test are concerned about the abstraction.