A FORMER Hampshire MP is at the forefront of battling to save the county's fragile chalk streams.

Lord Chidgey, former Eastleigh MP and a Winchester city councillor, who lives in Alresford, has been campaigning to ensure greater protection for chalk streams that include the rivers Test, Itchen and Meon.

Common in south England they are nearly unique to this country with only France have a sizeable number.

But debates in the House of Lords have been hearing about the threat to the rivers from pollution, development and over-abstraction of water for domestic use and farming.

Lord Chidgey told the Chronicle that new environment laws are a chance to offer lifeline to Hampshire rivers.

He said: “New environment laws being debated in the House of Lords this month could provide much-needed protection and environmental improvement for our endangered chalk streams and rivers and surrounding habitat.”

Lord Chidgey and like-minded Peers have been pressing the Government to accept a range of amendments to the new laws aimed at curbing the over-abstraction of river water for commercial use and discharging polluted water back, and banning the practice allowing foul sewage to flow into water sources when sewers overflow.

Working with an alliance of environmental charities, including the Anglers Trust and the RSPB, Lord Chidgey is pressing the Government to publish the report from the Environment Agency Chalk Stream Restoration.

Lord Chidgey said:“All parties are united in the need for a statutory designation of chalk streams status under law, protecting the stream channel, its floodplain, surrounding catchment and aquifer, leading to biodiversity recovery at the landscape level."

Southern Water was recently fined a record £90 million for dumping raw sewage into watercourses that flow in the Solent.

The Chronicle has reported the steep decline in flora and fauna on the upper parts of the River Itchen which have been attributed to watercress farming through use of fertiliser.