Adam Vaughan

The Times

The Times's award-winning Clean Air for All campaign, launched in 2019, pushed the issue of air pollution up the national agenda, playing a crucial role in securing policy changes such as the government's 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel car sales.

When Adam Vaughan joined the newspaper in 2022, the Times decided to do the same for the poor state of Britain's rivers and seas. The result - the Clean It Up campaign - launched on February 13 2023 with the revelation that water companies could escape big fines for spilling sewage into rivers and seas.

An in-depth feature by Vaughan took the reader through the history of how Britain's waters had become "a dirty joke" while The Times also looked at how the opaque water industry worked and who the bosses of the big companies were.

The next day saw a front page exclusive by Vaughan about how water companies had lobbied to water down the government’s £56 billion plan to curb sewage spills. The story used materials released under Environmental Information Requests to document how many firms had publicly backed the plan, while privately trying to dilute it.

As well as focusing on polluters’ failures, Vaughan has extensively covered some of the solutions to cleaning up Britain’s rivers. Amid the imminent prospect of the government ditching water protection rules to boost housebuilding, he reported in detail on one of “offsetting” schemes on a former farm that allowed new homes to be built while protecting the local river.

When the government did move to scrap the rules, Labour opposed the step and instead recommended reforming them and boosting the offsetting schemes of the kind Vaughan reported on. The government’s plan was eventually defeated, in a victory for river campaigners and the Times’ Clean it Up campaign, which was reported on the newspaper’s front page.

Vaughan’s reporting on river pollution this year has played a key role in moving the issue up the political agenda, to the extent that more than half of voters now see it a key issue in next year’s general election.