Celebrity protestors demand United Utilities stop dumping waste in Lake Windermere

Paul Whitehouse, Lee Mack, Steve Coogan

United Utilities has faced further demands to speed up its storm drain infrastructure and prevent discharges into England’s largest lake, Windermere.

Comedians Steve Coogan, Lee Mack and Paul Whitehouse led protests yesterday (29 May) in Bowness.

Coogan said: “Although I have a very strong local connection here, it’s a wider issue nationally and Windermere is the biggest lake in England, the Lake District is [a] Unesco heritage site.

“We’re here to tell United Utilities, to quite simply stop putting sewage in Windermere – and to use their resources to remove the damage that’s been done over the last few decades.”

Zoologist Matt Staniek, who started the campaign, said: “We want to see an end to sewage pollution in Windermere. This demonstration is about having a moment in time where people can have their voices heard on the day.

“The main objective is to get as many people there as possible to show a unified Lake District and put that message across to United Utilities that we want to see an end to sewage pollution.

“The most significant thing we have just received from the water industry is an apology. This apology acknowledges their responsibility for the current situation. What we lack is that comprehensive, visionary plan that guarantees the long-term protection of England’s largest lake.”

Staniek started a Save Windermere petition two years ago and it has since grown into a campaign with a full team behind it.

The campaign claims that as the company responsible for managing the sewage and wastewater infrastructure in the Lake District, United Utilities is the single largest contributor of phosphorus into the lake.

As reported on TheBusinessDesk.com last week (25 May), on publication of UU’s latest results, Louise Beardmore, who was promoted to chief executive in April 2023, said: “I understand and share concerns about the use of storm overflows and I am committed to respond to the challenges we face.

“We have already achieved a 39% reduction in reported activations since 2020, but we need to go faster and drive a step change in performance.”

United Utilities recently announced it will start early on £19million of work to tackle storm overflow operations at Ambleside, Elterwater, Hawkshead and Near Sawrey as part of £41million of investment in the catchment up to 2030. 

The company also held public information days in the Lake District over the Bank Holiday weekend. 

Kevin Sayers, Area Engagement lead for Cumbria, said: “We’re determined to deliver a step change in our performance and its contribution to the overall health of Windermere. Many of us live in the local community and we care passionately about the lake. 

“These events will give anyone the chance to drop in and ask any questions they may have about Lake Windermere and United Utilities’ operations.”