A river could be set to get legal protection after a motion was passed recognising its rights by the council.

The River Ouse, flowing through Lewes to Newhaven, may receive the rights after a motion passed acknowledging the rights of nature.

The Ouse could now receive a charter of rights which will be developed and sent to the council within the next two years.

Lewes District Council is one of the first councils in the UK to pass such a motion.

Councillor Matthew Bird, cabinet member for Sustainability, said: "I'm delighted that Lewes is the first council in England, I believe, to pass a motion of this kind that is about valuing the river in its own right and rethinks our relationship with it.

“Our waterways face constant harm from pollution, road runoff, development and climate change and the health and wellbeing of the River Ouse is severely under threat.

Get more great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day by signing up to our morning newsletter - don't miss out!

"This motion is the first step towards a Rights of River Ouse Charter through which the health and wellbeing of the river is represented and voiced by local communities throughout the Ouse Valley catchment."

The move comes after complaints about sewage water being dumped into the river due to heavy rainfall.

Lewes District Council previously passed a motion highlighting that the quality of water had deteriorated due to sewage pollution.

According to the Universal Declaration of River Rights, “ all rivers are living entities” which have fundamental rights including the right to flow, perform essential functions within its ecosystem, and be free from pollution.

In January, protests were held in Lewes where satirical blue plaques were unveiled across the region including at the office of MP Maria Caulfield.

Helen Fredericks, an activist who helped to unveil the plaques, said: “These plaques shine a light on the government’s failure to protect our waterways, the natural world, and all of us.

"There’s a huge amount of support for this campaign in our community and nationwide and we’ll be back with more waves of action until the government takes heed.”