Campaigners on a mission to clean up the waterways have set up a petition to put pressure onto central government.

It comes after statistics showed Bolton North East and Bolton South East were first and second in Greater Manchester in terms of the number of spills from storm overflows in 2022.

The constituencies saw more than 1,200 spills last year, while Bolton West saw more than 800 spills last year, putting it 14th in the region, according to statistics by Top of the Poops.

Kirith Entwistle, a Labour Party candidate at the next election, and Kate Taylor, a Labour Party councillor for Astley Bridge, set up a petition to put pressure onto central government.

They said raw sewage affects everywhere from the River Croal to the River Tonge, as well as the brooks which act as their tributaries.

Ms Entwistle said: "The rivers and brooks should be clean and safe for people and wildlife. We cannot continue to allow water companies to pollute our waterways with raw sewage. 

"The government needs to take action to protect our environment and our health."

Cllr Taylor, who was elected to Astley Bridge earlier this month, added: "This is a vital issue which needs to be addressed immediately. 

"We are calling on the government to take action against water companies and to implement strict fines and targets to end this practice."

The Bolton News: Kirith Entwistle and Kate Taylor

The answer, according to the Labour Party, is the introduction of compulsory monitoring as well as these strict fines and targets.

Previously, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said this is what it is doing with its own new Plan for Water.

A spokesperson said: "This government is the first to take such comprehensive action on storm overflows – and our new Plan for Water sets out the increased investment, tougher enforcement and tighter regulation to tackle this issue.

"We introduced compulsory monitoring, set the strictest targets ever on water companies to reduce discharges and required them to deliver the largest infrastructure programme in their history. 

"The environment secretary demanded a plan for every storm overflow from every company, prioritising those near bathing waters. 

"We are also consulting to give regulators more powers to impose much larger penalties for polluters without needing to go to court."

A spokesperson for United Utilities said: "We are committed to delivering a step change in performance. We set out to reduce the number of spills from storm overflows by at least one third compared to the 2020 baseline, and our performance in 2022 means we have already met this target. 

"We know there is much more to be done. With the largest combined sewer network in the country and 28 per cent more rainfall in our region than the UK average, we have ambitious plans to deliver improvements through one of the biggest environmental programmes in the country."

The petition is available on

This article was written by Jack Tooth. To contact him, email or follow @JTRTooth on Twitter.