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Paper 6 - 30 January 2004 Meeting

ASSOCIATION OF HAMPSHIRE AND ISLE OF WIGHT LOCAL AUTHORITIES

30 January 2004

SEWER FLOODING

Report by Corporate Projects Officer

Eastleigh Borough Council

          RECOMMENDATIONS 

(1)        The HIOW Councils should work together to persuade Southern Water and OFWAT to increase the focus on, and funding for, reducing sewer flooding, and the attendant health and pollution risks;  

(2)        To facilitate (1), Eastleigh should arrange a meeting for appropriate Councillor and staff representatives of interested Councils, to share information on sewer flooding problems, and to agree joint action to approach Southern Water and OFWAT, and any other appropriate joint action;  and

(3)        HIOW makes representations to the Minister that water companies should be formally urged to respond promptly and helpfully to local planning authority consultation on planning applications.

SUMMARY

·            Southern Water investment programme is fixed by OFWAT.

·            Work to tackle flooding from sewers inadequately funded over at least the last 13 years..

·            There has been some increased funding, following lobbying of OFWAT.

·            But this is not enough.

·             There is a need for flood relief schemes to be prioritised regionally, ideally on a cost / customer nuisance basis.  

 BACKGROUND

1                    Early in 2003 Eastleigh Borough Council's Environment and Transport Scrutiny Panel decided to investigate the flooding problems within the Borough. 

2          A cross party sub-group was formed. The following organisations were invited to give presentations at Eastleigh -

·        Southern Water;

·        Environment Agency; and

·        Water Voice (an organisation which represents Water customers)

                PROBLEMS

3          The problems being experienced in Eastleigh are that some sewers serving residential areas, particularly in the Eastleigh town area, surcharge during heavy rain.  Gardens and homes are flooded with raw sewage, and lavatories become unusable because the pipework serving the properties is at over capacity.

4          Sewage from the Eastleigh town area is pumped directly into the Chickenhall Waste Water Treatment Works, located beside the river Itchen.  Southern Water is licensed by the Environment Agency to discharge partially treated effluent into the River Itchen through a storm water overflow from its sewage treatment works. 

5          Because of the increase in flooding incidents over recent years and those projected in the future, Southern Water proposes to utilise this storm water overflow provision on a more frequent basis.  This will inevitably mean more partially treated effluent flowing into the Itchen. Only a short distance downstream, at Gaters Mill, is Portsmouth Water's water extraction plant. 

6          Southern Water is consulted regularly by the Council on significant planning applications. However, the level of response from the company is not good. From discussion at HIOW’s November 2003 meeting of the Hampshire Water Strategy, it appears that Eastleigh’s experience is shared by at least some of the other HIOW local planning authorities.

PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE

7          In November 2003, Mr David Chidgey, MP for Eastleigh, was successful in raising an adjournment debate on the Eastleigh problems, with the Minister for the Environment, Mr Elliot Morley.

8          Mr Chidgey managed to obtain assurances from the Minister that Southern Water will install additional storm water storage capacity at the Chickenhall Works.  Southern Water also proposes to change the storm water management arrangements at the works.  However, excess storm water will still be discharged directly into the river when the storage tanks are full. 

         The Minister –

·        Expressed hope that these would only be interim measures, adding that by the end 2005 he expected Southern Water to provide more permanent treatment facilities.

·        Explained that OFWAT had asked water companies to consider further measures to tackle sewer flooding, and that Southern Water had agreed to spend an additional £10m on major flood alleviation schemes in the period up to 2005.  OFWAT had also asked water companies to include a prioritised list of projects and costs in their business plans for 2005-2010.

·        The initial guidance that the Secretary of State issued to the Director General of Water Services in January 2003 made it clear that sewerage undertakers' assets should be maintained in a way that would deliver a high standard of serviceability to customers and the environment. Within the priorities of water company programmes, there needs to be an increase in the rate at which companies rectify sewer flooding problems if they are to get on top of the situation.  That guidance has been given to the Regulator.  The Ministry wants to ensure that sewer flooding and sewer repair and maintenance continue to be high on the agenda of both OFWAT and the companies.

10        In the context of concerns that water companies are not statutory consultees on planning matters, the Minister replied that he understood that there is no evidence to suggest that these non-statutory arrangements are inadequate. He added that if the current arrangements, which are based on Planning Policy Guidance, were not satisfactory, the Ministry might want to consider that in the future.

11        The Minister also agreed to bear in mind Mr Chidgey's comments regarding inadequate fines being imposed on water companies when cases of river pollution were brought to the Courts.

12        The Minister concluded by stating that further guidance will be issued in January 2004 on water companies' long term plans to deal with the issue of sewer flooding.

CURRENT PROBLEMS IN THE HAMPSHIRE AREA

13        Eastleigh is not the only area with this problem.  Following liaison with other Engineers and Environmental Health leads, it is understood that the following at least also have problems -

·           Test Valley Borough Council - infiltration into foul sewers.

·           New Forest District Council – six locations where foul sewers are inadequate.

·           Basingstoke & Deane – infiltration at St Marybourne, resulting in the need for Southern Water to tanker and pump sewage into the river.

·           Hart – problems leading to the lobbying of OFWAT to enable Thames Water to improve the infrastructure.

·           Rushmoor – problems leading to the lobbying of Thames Water to improve the infrastructure.

·           East Hants – problems with both Southern Water and Thames Water regarding the sewer infrastructure.

SOUTHERN WATER POSITION

14      Southern Water gave a presentation to Eastleigh’s Scrutiny Panel Drainage Sub-Group, which included the following key points -

·           Over £1 billion pounds is to be invested in improving the environment during the period 2000 – 2005 (£700,000 a day).

·           In the Hampshire region, flooding caused by ground water infiltration is of more concern to  customers than sewer collapses.

·           Historically flood prevention is not seen as a high priority by OFWAT. For example –

  o        in 1995 – 2000 £1 million allocated every five years for internal property flooding; but
o      
1997 – 1999 £1 million spent every day on cleaning up the beaches.

·        Mori poll of customers and constant lobbying by Southern Water

produced an extra £10 million for flood relief schemes for 2000/2005.

·           Southern Water is continuing lobbying and is optimistic that OFWAT will grant more funding for 2005/2010.

·           The level of funding will determine the extent of -

  o       sewer and pumping station improvements;
o      
CCTV infiltration investigations; and
o      
sealing and relining work.

15        Southern Water recognise that they are not a statutory consultee, but feel that Eastleigh can use its own local knowledge of a site to arrive at a planning decision.

JOHN GASSON
Corporate Projects Officer, Eastleigh Borough Council

Date:                13 January 2004
Annex:              0

Contact:            John Gasson (023 8068 8322  john.gasson@eastleigh.gov.uk

Last update: 19/01/2004
Author: Nick Goulder, Director

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