This evening Canterbury City Council united to condemn the actions of Southern Water following a summer of unauthorised sewage discharges on the coast. The final wording of the motion also saw the council concede to four out of the five demands made by Labour Councillors at the SOS Whitstable protest in early October and published on local blog site Whitstable views earlier.
The concessions secured by Labour will see SOS Whitstable engaged in the development of response plans when sewage is discharged and their opinion taken on how signage and water quality testing can be improved. The council is also going to review its approach to sustainable drainage plans with councillors across the house making it clear that they believed we should not be granting planning permission until developers have shown they are able to deal with waste water created by the site.
“I thank Cllr Clark for the opportunity to improve this motion” said Cllr Chris Cornell, Labour’s spokesman on Coastal Issues. “In it’s new form, the motion clearly expresses our dismay at the actions of Southern Water and applies pressure on central government to better regulate the industry – it is a win for local campaign groups and involves some very practical things the council can do to ensure residents feel safer in our seas”.
Local councillors are now working to arrange a meeting with local water users and council officers. They will be collecting and circulating best practice examples for the planning team as they update the council’s planning framework.
A full text of the motion to council is shown below
‘This Council finds Southern Water’s repeated discharges of untreated sewage to be deplorable.
The recent discharges in and near to bathing waters not only risk harm to both people and our marine ecology, but also cause significant damage to the district’s reputation as a safe and vibrant coastal destination, with economic consequences that will be felt by our businesses during this vital window of recovery following successive Covid-19 lockdowns.
We call upon Southern Water to report to this Council’s Community Committee to answer questions from Councillors and the public on how these matters will be addressed.
We also call upon Southern Water to respond to future planning applications seeking connection to the sewers fully and frankly, so that this Council’s planning officers and planning committee are fully informed and able to seek to protect the public interest when taking decisions.
In our Council’s review of the Local Plan it will undertake to include a review of Policy CC11 (Sustainable Drainage Provision) to ensure that it comprehensively addresses the long term management and maintenance of Sustainable Drainage Systems.
Furthermore, while combined sewer overflows are a legally allowed method that leads to sewage entering the sea, the system is archaic and socially unacceptable. We call upon the relevant Government department to create a legally enforceable timetable and plan to split surface water from foul water so our rivers and coast being polluted is not the default response to heavy rain or equipment failure.
The Leader of this Council, along with the Leaders of the Labour and Liberal Democrat groups and the Chief Executive, will write to the Environment Agency to outline their concerns and seek that immediate action be taken to prevent further unnecessary incidents.
The above will also write to the Secretary of State, highlighting the continued underinvestment by Southern Water and seeking a Government commitment to resolve this situation. This includes the need for urgent upgrading of the Canterbury Waste Water Treatment Works in order to reduce nutrient levels in treated wastewater discharged to the Stour and the investment/upgrades required at Swalecliffe Treatment Works and Herne Bay Waste Water Treatment Works to mitigate discharges to sea via the SSSIs at Long Rock and Reculver Country Park, respectively.
This council will task its Seaside Byelaws Working Group to prepare a new chapter on Bathing Water Quality as part of its Coastal Management Plan. They will consult and work with local businesses and water users on ways it can improve signage and our response to sewage discharges.
Finally, this council will seek to improve the reporting of waste water and sewage releases with other interested agencies to ensure that residents are given access to more accurate and timely information about environmental conditions along our coastline.’