A total of 15 charities and projects are to benefit from £2.2m after companies and individuals agreed enforcement undertakings with the Environment Agency.

The total amount was boosted after Wessex Water agreed to make the agency’s largest ever financial contribution, £975,000, for an offence involving sewage spills at Swanage in Dorset.

The other enforcement undertakings lead to payments ranging from £5,000 to £232,000.

As well as making a payment to an appropriate charity or project, the companies have accepted liability, demonstrated restoration of harm and will make improvements to avoid future offences, the Environment Agency said.

Peter Kellett, Director of Legal Services at the watchdog, said: “When companies damage the environment whether it is through polluting our waters or breaching permit conditions, we will take enforcement action against them including civil sanctions.

“We take these environmental incidents very seriously and these payments of more than £2.2 million direct to charities will help them carry out vital projects to improve our environment right across England.”

The Environment Agency said it was increasingly using enforcement undertakings for suitable cases to restore or enhance the environment, improve practices of the offending business and ensure future compliance with environmental requirements. “However prosecutions will still be taken, particularly in the most serious cases.”

The full list of enforcement undertakings can be viewed here.