Conservative and Labour politicians across North Hertfordshire are supporting new measures to protect local chalk streams.

Bim Afolami has praised Affinity Water for investing £8.5m in a new reservoir in Preston, while Sir Oliver Heald and Baroness Taylor of Stevenage are supporting an amendment to the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill that would provide protection for chalk streams during the planning process.

Hertfordshire contains around 20 per cent of the world's chalk streams, which have been described by David Attenborough as "one of the rarest habitats on Earth", but are currently threatened by over-abstraction of water.

In 2019, for example, the upper Ivel ran dry for the first time in living memory, and other chalk streams in Hertfordshire including the Rib, the Quin, the Ash, the Beane, the Mimram and the Lea are also at risk.

It was with a view to protecting these streams, and others like them, that Viscount Trenchard - who is from Standon - recently moved an amendment to the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill in the House of Lords.

He said that, if passed, the amendment would "ensure that the impact on chalk streams of relevant projects is explicitly considered, avoided wherever possible, or mitigated" during the planning process.

It was drafted with assistance from Sir Oliver Heald, the Conservative MP for North East Hertfordshire, and Nikki Da Costa, who is from Ashwell and served as director of legislative affairs for Theresa May and Boris Johnson.

The amendment is also supported by Labour's Baroness Taylor of Stevenage, who said: "We are blessed with what should be vital water resources, providing habitats for a huge diversity of species.

"Sadly ... they are under increasing pressure from overextraction and pollution.

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"We need to improve their health and focus on that through the chalk stream strategy. There is still much more to be done.

"If our chalk streams were buildings, they would be UNESCO heritage sites. Let us protect them as though they were."

At the end of debate, environment minister Lord Benyon confirmed "that the government intend to support the principle of the amendment" and will bring forward its own amendment in due course.

RevIvel, a community organisation that hopes to protect the river, described this is "wonderful news", while Sir Oliver said: “I am delighted that Lord Trenchard has had this great success in persuading government to put the protection of chalk streams in planning on a statutory footing.

"I also pay tribute to campaigners such as Charles Rangeley-Wilson and Nikki Da Costa for their help and briefing.”

Meanwhile, Bim Afolami, the MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, has welcomed news that Affinity Water will invest £8.5m in a new reservoir in the village of Preston.

The reservoir will provide an additional 20 million litres of water storage, enabling Affinity to import more water from Grafham Reservoir in Cambridgeshire and reduce the amount abstracted from Hertfordshire's chalk aquifer.

Mr Afolami said: “Protecting our chalk streams and ensuring that we have sufficient and sustainable local water supplies are vitally important.

"That’s why I welcome Affinity Water’s £8.5m investment in the future of our local communities with this new service reservoir in Preston – delivering a huge new store of water here locally in an environmentally-friendly way.

“I look forward to seeing the benefits that this project will bring for local people and our local environment – and I will be holding Affinity Water to account to ensure that we continue to protect our chalk streams and waterways.”

Ellie Powers, head of water resources and environment at Affinity Water, added: “We’re extremely proud to be constructing a new service reservoir near Preston which will help to ensure the resilience of water supplies to customers.

“It will also help enable us to import more water from Grafham Water reservoir and ensure that less water is taken from the region’s chalk aquifer.

“Our region is home to around 10 per cent of the UK’s rare chalk streams and our current WRMP roadmap is working towards achieving a reliable, resilient, sustainable, efficient and affordable water supply to customers between 2025 and 2075, whilst taking care of the local environment."