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Agenda item

Councillor Glasberg - Rights of the River Cam

Introduction (not part of active motion)

The Green and Independent Group proposes the following motion to address resident concerns over the state of our rivers and chalk streams. We regard the river as an integral part of the life of our city. Threats to our rivers are a threat to us all.


The purpose of this motion is to:


·      state our city’s aspirations for our river and chalk streams (“the declaration of the Rights of the River Cam”)

·      petition the organisations responsible for our river to improve their performance in order to help save our river and its tributaries.

·      consider the limits placed by the depleted state of our river on future growth in buildings and infrastructure.


Active Motion


1 Declaration of the Rights of the River Cam

This council declares that the River Cam and its tributaries should have the following rights arising from their existence in nature:


·      The right to flow and be free from over-abstraction

·      The right to perform essential functions of flooding, moving sediment, recharging groundwater and sustaining biodiversity

·      The right to be free from pollution

·      The right to feed and be fed by sustainable aquifers

·      The right to native biodiversity

·      The right to restoration

·      The right to maintain connections with other streams and rivers


This council undertakes to assess the impact of all its decisions on the health of the river and ensure that all its decisions support these rights.


This council calls on all residents and organisations to act as guardians of the River Cam and engage with the river in a relationship of respect and stewardship.


2 Responsibility

This council notes that the responsible bodies are:


Environment Agency – general oversight


Cambridge Water - water supply


Anglian Water - sewage


The council proposes to write to all three bodies to share its concerns over the state of the river and call upon them for their assistance.


3. Interaction with the Council’s own actions and the growth of the city


The Council proposes to set up a small cross-party group to draw up a plan for the protection of the river. This will include considering the impact of future growth in buildings and infrastructure in the City on the depleted state of our river, and the limits that may be necessary to respect the rights of the river to report back to full council prior to updating the Local Plan. For the avoidance of doubt, it is intended that this group will supplement rather than displace the work of existing scrutiny committees.


End of Active Motion


Background Notes (not part of active motion):


1              On Midsummer’s Day in 2021, Friends of the River Cam made the first public declaration in the UK of the rights of the River at Jesus Green, linked to the Universal Declaration of River Rights: https://www.rightsofrivers.org

2              The declaration is repeated on Midsummer’s Day each year and is repeated in the text of this motion.

3              This year the declaration will be at 6pm on 21st June with a celebration with short speeches, live music, choirs and poetry from 4pm to 9pm.All residents are welcome.

4              The declaration of rights is supported by many of our local environmental and community groups including CPRE, FeCRA, Cambridge Friends of the Earth, Save Honey Hill, Keep Waterbeach Rural, Friends of Logan’s Meadow, Friends of Cherry Hinton Brook, and many others.

5              Earlier this year, Lewes District Council passed a Rights of Rivers Motion to protect the River Ouse in East Sussex. Momentum has been growing globally to extend legal rights to nature and in some cases specifically to rivers.

https://democracy.lewes eastbourne.gov.uk/documents/s27490/Motion%20-%20Rights%20of%20the%20River.pdf

6     Cllrs Glasberg and Tong wish to thank the Friends of the River Cam and representatives from a number of local environmental groups for their help in putting this motion together. Any errors or omissions are of course our own.



Councillor Bennett withdrew motion 13b under Council Procedure Rule 13.3 (withdrawal of motion upon not being moved).

Supporting documents: