Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Becca Horn itemises her complaints.

Protest against Southern Water’s faecal treacle

While Southern Water were receiving customers at the Stade Hall on Thursday 12 October, and trying to mollify them, protesters were plentiful outside it. They had a lot to complain about, including untreated sewage, lack of answers, health hazards, endangered pets, and a proposed 44% increase in their water bill (arguably for what they had already paid for). Bernard McGinley reports and took the photos.

The lack of accountability was the overall theme. Whether it was the condition of the sea water, or neglect and pollution at Old Roar Gill, Alexandra Park, Priory Meadow or Bulverhythe, the grievances were many.

The protest in St Leonards in August 2022 was extensive, and reported in HOT.

Many questions

Last week’s Stade protest was notable for the many local groups represented. Becca Horn (Green Party prospective Parliamentary candidate – PCC), speaking for the Clean Water Action Group (CWAG), asked an entertaining series of searching and serious questions, apparently recorded on a toilet roll about water testing, company dividends, priorities and information held but not disclosed. The dismal record of discharges and spillages was cited. 

Old Roar Gill used to be a celebrated beauty spot. Times have changed. The Old Roar Gill and Alexandra Park contamination issues were well explained by Myriam Lengliné of the Sewage Contamination Group. Additionally there is the Save the Old Roar Gill group. The failure of Southern Water to take sewage leaks seriously as a major public health risk was a repeated theme.   

Then Katy (of @hastingsboycottssouthernwater) explained the basis for a responsible campaign, Boycott Southern Water. Parents for Future were represented, and Seals against Sewage.

Jane Ripley, a former water chemist, spoke about the crisis, and was scathing about its management. Despite the national population increase, the last reservoir built was in 1991.  

Jane Ripley

She mentioned as an indicator the government’s recent reform of nutrient neutrality relaxation of standards for developers. As a consequence, Britain was one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world: species were being lost, she said. The Environment Agency’s budget had been very severely cut and privatisation of the water utilities (since 1989) was not working. 

A large crowd – into three figures – heard the speakers supportively. Hastings Borough Council (HBC) Labour member Andy Batsford was there but did not speak publicly. Local MP Sally-Ann Hart and the Labour PPC Helena Dollimore were not seen.

Legal action threatened

At the HBC cabinet meeting of 2 October, it was unanimously agreed that the Council would continue dialogue with Southern Water and the Environment Agency, in pursuit of  hard answers on infrastructure and trust. The final points were

SW are asked to financially compensate the council for the infrastructure failures which have had a significant impact on the reputation of Hastings as a tourist destination.

If a satisfactory response is not received by 31st December consider what action might be taken, to include the consideration of legal action.

The prospect of HBC suing Southern Water next year would make a lively background to the pending general election.

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Posted 19:25 Sunday, Oct 15, 2023 In: Campaigns

1 Comment

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  1. kendal

    HBC need the money so this will be interesting and see if it sparks similar actions from other councils. could be a turning point to renationalise. SW Inconsistencies: from a generic email from Chris Dixon, Executive Review Team and Storm Overflow Taskforce, regarding ‘dry spills’ 26-09-22: “The prices we charge for wastewater treatment have already been LOWERED due to our past POOR PERFORMANCE, and A FURTHER REBATE is being given to customers over the next few years because of MISREPORTING BETWEEN 2010 – 2015. I can confirm that 100% OF OUR PROFITS are placed back into the company in the form of INVESTMENT TO IMPROVE NETWORK RESILIENCE AND UPGRADES. I can also, confirm Southern Water HASN’T PAID SHAREHOLDER DIVIDENDS SINCE 2017.”

    Feargal Sharkey exposed an OfWAT letter sent to all water companies pointing out their PAYOUT OF BONUSES TO COMPANY EXECUTIVES; and issuing a deadline for companies to REPORT where customers’ money has been spent and progress of development, they’ve been waiting years for. NO WATER COMPANY

    Comment by kendal — Monday, Oct 16, 2023 @ 08:46

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