I am enthusiastic about promoting sport and recreation in the countryside, and understand the positive benefits outdoor activities can have both physically and mentally. Our waterways are enthusiastically used by a range of people with differing interests, including pedestrians, cyclists, anglers, paddle craft, motorboaters, and swimmers where it is safe and permitted. I believe it is essential that all interests work together when considering how the accessibility of waterways might be improved.
With that in mind, I agree with the view of Ministers that access to unregulated waterways should be achieved through encouraging voluntary access agreements, between riparian landowners and others with an interest in using the waterway, which take into account local circumstances, the rights of other users, as well as protection for wildlife and the environment. I believe that these sensitive issues can best be dealt with at a local level rather than through a one size fits all approach decided in Westminster.
I also fully support my Ministerial colleagues' aim to make this the first generation which leaves the environment in a better state than we found it and I am pleased that over 50 per cent of canals have now been restored, enabling an increasing number of people to enjoy the outdoors and get close to water.
More widely, I am encouraged that between 2020 and 2025, water companies will invest £3.1 billion in storm overflow improvements to reduce sewage discharges to our waters. This includes £1.9bn investment on the Thames Tideway Tunnel super sewer, as well as £1.2bn of other investment throughout England. £144m of this is new, additional investment as a result of a call to action from the Storm Overflows Taskforce. I am also pleased that Ministers have amended the Environment Bill to help crack down on the pollution in our rivers, waterways and coastlines, to better tackle the harm that overflows cause.