A group of supporters have come together to safeguard the future of a Suffolk river which has suffered pollution and loss of wildlife.

Conservationists, farmers and other groups want to work together to improve the health of the River Deben through a group called the East Suffolk Catchment Partnership.

The group launched an action plan for the river and estuary on Tuesday (May 14) called Recovering the Deben – From Source to Sea.

The river flows nearly 25 miles from its source near Debenham to the North Sea at Felixstowe Ferry - but just 11% of its stretch is considered up to the right ecological standard.

The action plan is being co-ordinated by Essex and Suffolk Rivers Trust director Dr Helen Dangerfield Director on behalf of the East Suffolk Catchment Partnership.

East Anglian Daily Times:

“I am delighted we have been able to establish this initiative," she said.

"For a long time, so many passionate groups have been working on their own to assist the recovery of the Deben, but together we are so much stronger.

“At the moment, just 11% of the river is meeting ecological standards – that isn’t good enough and is threatening the habitats of many animals who rely on the river.

“Doing nothing is not an option and we are all desperate to see the river and estuary in recovery.”

Campaigners behind the group say fish species recorded in the Deben including brown trout, eels, brook lamprey and bullhead are all at risk due to the condition of the water.

Water birds in the Deben estuary also face an uncertain future - despite the estuary being internationally recognised as important for its birds and habitats.

"Polluted water from land and roads and sewage, the developing climate catastrophe and unfavourable human modifications have combined to push this special river and estuary to its limits. Recent flooding and water quality issues affect many who live and work in the area," the group said.

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey backed the group’s plans in a speech in the House of Commons on May 9.

She asked environment secretary Steve Barclay to increase government funding to the project to help supercharge the work.

Water minister Robbie Moore welcomed the action plan.

“The River Deben catchment, recognised as a Site of the Special Scientific Interest, is of fundamental importance to businesses, communities and wildlife across Suffolk," he said.

“Following our successful roundtable held last August, the East Suffolk Catchment Partnership has developed an ambitious plan to improve the River Deben and its surrounding environment."

Farming groups are also backing the plan. The Upper Deben Farm Cluster said it would enable farmers and landowners in the area to be part of a project that will deliver landscape-scale benefits for all those who depend upon the river Deben while providing more habitat for nature.

East Anglian Daily Times:

Suffolk FWAG (Farming Wildlife & Wildlife Advisory Group) chief executive Anna Beames said it was a valuable opportunity to actively work with farmers and landowners throughout the Deben catchment - and showed the positive role of agriculture in effecting change towards more healthy and vital land use.

The River Deben Association supported the initiative and said it was only through the activities and involvement of the catchment community that the plan can become reality.

Rob Collins, director of policy and science at the Rivers Trust, said collaborative partnership working was "absolutely vital" to bring about the transformation the UK's rivers and estuaries.

"It is encouraging to see local organisations and individuals in the Deben catchment coming together for long-term, sustainable change," he said.

"The Deben is such a significant river for communities across East Suffolk, and has a wider ecological importance in feeding a Ramsar wetland, that supports internationally important flora and fauna."

The Essex and Suffolk Rivers Trust (ESRT) is an environmental charity set up in 2013 to improve and protect rivers in Essex and Suffolk.

Residents in the Deben catchment are invited to have their say on the plan via an online survey at www.essexsuffolkriverstrust.org/recovering-the-deben-get-involved

More information about the Recovering the Deben From Source to Sea project, including the recovery action plan can be found on the ESRT website: www.essexsuffolkriverstrust.org/recovering-the-deben