The Government must do more, and quickly, to improve the quality of our rivers and waterways, according to Wealden district’s Conservative leader.
Speaking critically during a full meeting of the council, Ann Newton highlighted the failing of recent legislation intended to reduce the adverse impact of discharge from storm overflows. Cllr Newton pointed to the legal requirement of water companies to achieve targets set out in the 2021 Environment Act.
These stipulate that:
- By 2035, water companies must improve all storm overflows discharging into or near every designated bathing water; and improve 75% of overflows discharging to high priority nature sites.
- By 2050, this will apply to all remaining storm overflows covered by the targets, regardless of location.
Cllr Newton introduced a motion that Wealden District Council write to the Secretary of State to demand ‘more ambitious deadlines and for a joined-up approach between local authorities, Government agencies and sewage companies to stop this most dreadful practice of pumping sewage into our waterways’.
Her proposal received widespread support from all quarters except members of the Green Party who either abstained or voted against the idea.
“We need action and we need it quickly”, was Cllr Newton’s message as she questioning the Government’s timetable, saying it was “just not good enough”.
“The deadline of 2035 is some 12 years away and by that time improvement is only required to solve 75% of the problem with the rest coming in by 2050, some 27 years away. This is just not acceptable – we are a country in the so-called western civilisation.
The Conservative councillor went on to say: “It truly sickens me every time I see on the news, and very often that is the local news, that more sewage is being pumped from overflow pipes on our beaches into the sea or into our rivers. It is almost unbelievable for the very reason that we are part of a civilised society.”
Cllr Newton went on to say that how important it was that water disposal authorities publish live all details of storm overflows to every location into every watercourse. “Naming and shaming can be very persuasive”, she said.