WWF-UK, the Angling Trust and Fish Legal will focus the court case on habitats which are protected by law and known as Natura 2000 sites. In the South East, these include Solent and Southampton Water, the Thanet Coast, Dungeness to Pett Level, the River Itchen, Chichestrer and Langstone Harbours, Pagham Harbour and the Arun Valley.

WWF-UK, which is based in Surrey, says that Natura 2000 sites are where pollution is having a harmful impact on species which should thrive in these habitats. The UK government is required by law to take all the necessary steps to ensure they are at good health by December 2015, but it is not going to achieve this.

To protect these special habitats adequately, WWF, the Angling Trust and Fish Legal want the government to “use all the tools at its disposal” to ensure “these precious places” are properly protected and restored for people and wildlife.

This would include water protection zones (WPZs), which were identified by the EA in 2009 as its preferred tool to reduce pollution if voluntary measures were not successful. In 2008, South East Farmer ran a front page article warning that WPZs would be used to stop agricultural pollution of river catchments in the region. In an interview, the EA said then that any activity leading to run off from farmland was a risk, especially where there is limited cover during winter. Soil run off could silt up rivers and have impacts on the ecology: intensive horticulture on the Chichester plain and the Arun catchment were two areas where there was a higher risk from soil run off.