Water Framework Directive and the Hughenden Stream

The Water Framework Directive is the most substantial piece of water legislation ever produced by the European Commission, and is providing the major driver for achieving sustainable management of water in the UK and other EU Member States now and for many years to come. It was transposed into UK law in December 2003.  What follows is just a summary of the Directive and its implementation and how it relates to Hughenden Valley.  For more detailed information you should go to the Foundation for Water Research web site at http://www.fwr.org

The Directive requires that all inland and coastal waters within defined river basin districts must reach at least “good” status by 2015.  It defines how this should be achieved through the establishment of environmental objectives and ecological targets for surface waters.  Hughenden Valley is within the River Thames basin and specifically the River Wye and Hughenden Stream catchment area

The Directive requirements will be achieved for each river basin district by:

  • Defining what is meant by ‘good’ status by setting environmental quality objectives for surface waters and groundwaters.
  • Identifying in detail the characteristics of the river basin district, including the environmental impact of human activity.
  • Assessing the present water quality in the river basin district.
  • Undertaking an analysis of the significant water quality management issues.
  • Identifying the pollution control measures required to achieve the environmental objectives.
  • Consulting with interested parties about the pollution control measures, the costs involved and the benefits arising.
  • Implementing the agreed control measures, monitoring the improvements in water quality and reviewing progress and revising water management plans to achieve the quality objectives.

Policy responsibility within England lies with Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and much of the implementation work is done by The Environment Agency.

The Environment Agency, together with the Thames liaison panel, produced a draft River Basin Management Plan for the Thames River Basin District on 22 December 2008. The consultation ran for 6 months to 22 June 2009 and the Environment Agency submitted the plan to the Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 22 September 2009.

The River Basin Management Plan was approved by the Secretary of State on 22 December 2009 and describes what everyone has to do to improve the water environment over the next 20 years. It is about the pressures facing the water environment in this river basin district, and the actions that will address them. It has been prepared in consultation with a wide range of organisations and individuals and is the first of three six-year planning cycles.

The Thames River Basin Management Plan, supporting annexes, and other supporting information are available on the Environment Agency website :

The Environment Agency is now working to review and update the River Basin Management Plans in consultation with local organisations and will publish the revised plans in December 2015.

The government’s catchment-based approach was announced on World Water Day, 22 March 2011. It is seen as the tool by which Integrated Catchment Management will be delivered. One of the fundamental ideas is to engage stakeholders via a more local catchment-based approach.

A total of 25 catchments were chosen as pilots which will be evaluated in terms of the different ways they approached and supported stakeholder involvement.

A further 41 smaller pilot catchments have been awarded a small sum of seed corn money from DEFRA to go ahead and initiate the catchment-based approach, reporting progress back to Cascade Consulting in January 2013, although these will not form part of the formal evaluation. FWR was pleased to be awarded one of these grants, to cover the South Chilterns area.

The project milestones identified by DEFRA involve engaging with stakeholders, exploring with them and agreeing the water quality and related issues in the catchment, defining what actions need to be taken to address the Project issues, and identifying whether stakeholders have the capability or capacity to deliver those actions to achieve WFD objectives. So as host, it is up to FWR to identify and engage with stakeholders, develop a shared understanding of issues in the project area and help initiate joint agreed actions.

The South Chilterns project area covers the catchments of the Pang, Hughenden Stream, Wye and Lower Middle Thames (the latter covering the Ewelme Stream and Hamble Brook).

The River Wye & Hughenden Stream
The River Wye is one of a number of important chalk streams in the Chilterns. The source of the River Wye is Cockshot Farm to the north-west of West Wycombe although following heavy rains it has been seen to rise beyond Radnage. It then flows for around 16 km (10.5 miles) through High Wycombe, Wycombe Marsh, Loudwater, Woburn and Bourne End, where it joins the River Thames near Cookham Lock. The Hughenden Stream rises from springs in the Hughenden Valley and flows 3.5 km (2.2 miles) through Hughenden Park to join the Wye in the centre of High Wycombe. High Wycombe takes part of its name from the river, which now runs mostly underground through the town. Pann Mill watermill, at the eastern end of Wycombe, is the last remaining watermill on the River Wye.

Stakeholder Meeting
A Stakeholder meeting was held on Tuesday 5th February 2013. A large number of local stakeholders were invited and made very valuable contributions to the discussions for improvement to the watercourses.

Attending Stakeholders
Affinity Water, Bradenham Parish Council, Chilterns Conservation Board, Chiltern Society, Chilterns & West Wycombe National Trust, CPRE Bucks, Dialogue by Design, Environment Agency, Ewelme Parish Council, FWR, High Wycombe Society & Pann Mill Group, Hughenden National Trust, , Hughenden Valley Residents Association, NFU, Revive the Wye, River Thames Society, Wycombe District Council, Wycombe Environment Centre

Of specific interest to Hughenden residents will be the fluctuating seasonal flow from the source of the Hughenden Stream as well as its form as it flows through Hughenden Park and into High Wycombe.  Its current form has been greatly influenced by the addition of weirs during the era of Disraeli to provide pools for trout fishing.  One suspects in those days the stream dried up far less often than it does today.  Demand for water from the aquifers was far less resulting in year round flow and more viable fishing.  Nevertheless it is the characteristic of a Chiltern stream that in particularly dry seasons it will dry up as the water table lowers.

From discussions that were held at the stakeholder meeting the National Trust expressed an interest in removing the weirs and returning the stream to its normal state meandering through the grassland without banks.  They would probably retain the weir which creates a lake at the far end of the park.

Before the Hughenden Stream joins the river Wye it flows through the old Broomwade industrial area in Wycombe and then underneath Morrisons supermarket.  In previous times it was typical for developers to move rivers underground as they were seen as an unnecessary obstacle.  Councils in general were in agreement and allowed these developments to take place.  The River Wye for example is not visible at all in the centre of Wycombe as it has been moved underneath the new Eden shopping centre.  It is hoped that more of a feature will be made of the Hughenden stream when the new plans are developed for the Broomwade site.

Should you wish for any further information or wish to be involved in any future discussions that might take place please contact James Perkins.