The government is planning to consult on expanding its targets to tackle sewage even further to cover all coasts, estuaries and marine protected sites, Defra has confirmed this weekend.

The Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan, published in August 2022, set out stringent targets to protect people and the environment, backed up by £56 billion capital investment – the largest infrastructure programme in water company history.

Since then, the government has continued to drive action to hold water companies to account, bring in tougher regulation and accelerate infrastructure to tackle pollution. Building on the measures in the plan to address the overflows causing the most harm first, the government is now planning to consult to expand the targets to cover all coastal and estuarine overflows.

It follows last month’s announcement that the government’s target to reduce storm overflows will be enshrined in law through the Environment Act 2021. This will be backed by separate interim milestones for bathing waters and high priority nature sites.

The government has always been clear that it will go further and faster to tackle the issue of storm overflows wherever possible, with Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey demanding earlier this year that water companies share individual improvement plans on all storm overflows by June.

The targets outlined in the Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan provide an achievable, credible route to tackling sewage and delivering the improvements customers expect without disproportionately impacting consumer bills.

Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey said:

'As a coastal MP myself, I know that our coastlines are hugely important to local communities and to nature. While 93% of our beaches with designated bathing status are already rated excellent or good, I intend to use my powers to better protect all of our coasts and estuaries.'

The Plan for Water set out the government’s strategy to tackle all sources of pollution – not just storm overflows, but also agriculture, plastics, road run-off and chemicals – as well as managing the pressures on our water resources.