Following mounting concern around sewage pollution and water quality, Sussex Conservative MPs met with the Chief Executives from Southern Water (Lawrence Gosden) and the Environment Agency (Sir James Bevan) to discuss sewage discharges into Sussex rivers and seas.
Chaired by Huw Merriman, MP for the Bexhill and Battle constituency, the meeting was called to discuss Government targets to reduce discharges from combined sewage overflows (CSOs) and water issues that are impacting their constituencies.
Sir James Bevan told MPs that water quality in the UK is, in fact, better than at any time since the Industrial Revolution. However, there is still much work to be done to end CSO discharges and monitor every discharge into waterways and the sea.
The Sussex MPs pressed the importance for their constituents and made clear that the ambition to reduce pollution incidents must be delivered. Monitoring and enforcement of water companies to hold performance to account must be a priority.
All parties agreed CSOs were not the only cause of pollution; farming and road runoff are also important issues which need to be addressed. Southern Water told the MPs that following successful interventions in their pilot pathfinder areas [Pathfinder projects (southernwater.co.uk)] including real time smart control of sewer networks, highway drainage enhancements and development of public green spaces, that they will be looking to scale up the projects over a greater area.
MPs asked if planning reform would help reduce overloading the sewage system. The Environment Agency and Southern Water agreed that making water companies statutory consultees in the planning application process, would stop inappropriate development in water stressed areas. Other key measures could include making sustainable urban drainage systems mandatory on all new housing sites, as well as making water efficiency as important as energy efficiency on all new homes.
Huw Merriman said “The MPs were encouraged by the strong commitment to improving water quality from both the Environment Agency and Southern Water. It is clear that water quality has not had the focus it deserves, we are now on a regulatory path to cleaning up rivers and sea bathing waters.
“As Sussex MPs, we want to see rapid progress and delivery of targets. It’s a matter which is extremely important to us and our constituents. We were pleased to learn that, by the end of the year, all outflows across Sussex will be monitored. This data is an important part of the process in controlling and understanding overflow incidents. These incidents have become more commonplace due to population growth and more extreme weather events overloading the Victorian sewerage systems. We are all agreed that we will be calling for planning reforms which prevent surface run-off entering the system and better water management in homes.”
Lawrence Gosden Southern Waters CEO said, “I welcomed meeting with our Sussex MPs and the EA to discuss our joint ambition to reducing storm overflows. Since being appointed as Southern Water’s CEO in July last year, I’ve made a commitment to improve our environmental performance.
“We know storm overflows are no longer acceptable to our customers, local communities, stakeholders and my own colleagues in Southern Water and are committed to reducing their use. I’ll be laying out plans in the near future to ramp up our programme of work to tackle storm overflows.”