MPs from across Sussex hosted a meeting in Parliament on Wednesday 22nd March with Southern Water CEO, Lawrence Gosden, and Environment Agency CEO, Sir James Bevan, to discuss the action that has been taken to tackle sewage discharge.
During the meeting, the MPs raised the topic of the Government’s new legally binding targets on combined sewage overflows with the water company and heard about the company’s Clean Rivers and Seas Task Force which will implement a £2.8 billion plan to end sewage discharges and water pollution.
The MPs heard from Sir James Bevan of the Environment Agency that water quality in the UK is in now cleaner than at any time since the Industrial Revolution due to regulation introduced in the last 10 years by the Government.
In August 2022, the Government launched the Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan, which will deliver the largest ever environmental infrastructure investment - £56 billion over 25 years. This is an ambitious plan which prioritises storm overflows that have the potential to cause the most harm while balancing the impact on consumer bills.
After MP’s called for action, the water regulators (the Environment Agency and Ofwat) also recently launched the largest criminal and civil investigations into water company sewage discharges ever, at over 2200 treatment works, following new data coming to light as a result of the increased monitoring, which has been driven by the Government.
Present were local MPs including Rt Hon Gillian Keegan MP, Sir Peter Bottomley MP, Rt Hon Nick Gibb MP, and Andrew Griffith MP.
Commenting, Sir Peter Bottomley MP, Member of Parliament for Worthing West said:
"We all understand that the quality of our bathing water matters to our local communities. Our seaside economy relies significantly on our high-quality beaches and bathing waters. Residents must be able to enjoy our beaches and swim safely. Everyone in a community suffers when unacceptable waste is found along the beach and when sensitive river environments are poisoned by untreated discharges from main drains.
We expect water quality to improve as our systems become more efficient and effective and we recognise the improvements to date. Collaboration between Southern Water, the Environment Agency and our local and national government is critical to making the difference."
Rt Hon Gillian Keegan MP, Member of Parliament for Chichester, said:
“This is a huge, cross-MP, cross-area issue, and there's a still long way for Southern Water to go before we're in a place that we're happy with.
We aren't there yet, but meetings like these are a really important way of keeping the channels open and continuing to keep the pressure on in Sussex”
Rt Hon Nick Gibb MP, Member of Parliament for Bognor Regis & Littlehampton, said:
“In seaside towns and villages, there are few things more important than ensuring that the sea water is clean, for both residents and for visitors. The Environment Agency and Southern Water need to leave no stone unturned in minimising and ultimately eliminating storm water overflows that lead to untreated wastewater discharges.
It is very encouraging that all Sussex MPs and the Chief Executives of Southern Water and the Environment Agency are all working together to ensure that water companies are held to account. It is welcome that Southern Water is putting billions of pounds of investment into the sewer system and surface water drainage system to ensure that our rivers and sea remain healthy and clean.”
Andrew Griffith MP, Member of Parliament for Arundel & South Downs, said:
“West Sussex residents are rightly concerned about the health of our rivers but we must not confuse new data with it being a new problem. The truth is the issue has been there for many decades and it is this Government that is finally doing something about it. Southern Water and the Environment agency were left under no illusion how important it is that they act.”
Notes to editors:
- More information on Southern Water’s pathfinder plan can be found here: https://www.southernwater.co.uk/our-performance/storm-overflows/pathfinder-projects
- More information about the Government’s Storm Overflows Taskforce here: https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/storm-overflows-taskforce
- Photos attached of the meeting with Southern Water, Environment Agency and Sussex MPs – Courtesy of Office of Andrew Griffith MP
- MPs present: Sir Peter Bottomley MP for Worthing West; Sally -Ann Hart MP for Hastings and Rye; Maria Caulfield MP for Lewes; Caroline Ansell MP for Eastbourne; Nusrat Ghani MP for Wealden; Henry Smith MP for Crawley; Gillian Keegan MP for Chichester; Nick Gibb MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton; Andrew Griffith MP for Arundel and South Downs; Tim Loughton MP for East Worthing and Shoreham; and, Jeremy Quin MP for Horsham