Protest against Southern Water on St Leonards seafront on August 20 following last month's sewage leak in Bulverhythe. Picture by Hastings and St Leonards Clean Water Action SUS-210821-120944001

St Leonards protest held against Southern Water after major sewage leak at Bulverhythe beach: in pictures

Scores of people staged a demonstration on St Leonards beach yesterday evening (Friday, August 20).

By Richard Gladstone
Saturday, 21st August 2021, 6:13 pm

The newly-formed Hastings and St Leonards Clean Water Action Group organising the protest against Southern Water.

The event was held near Azur in the wake of the recent major sewage leak at Bulverhythe.

People brought along red flags and placards to the demonstration and speeches were given.

One of the protest’s organisers, Becca Horn, said: “It was fantastic to see so many people turn out to show their outrage at Southern Water’s dumping of raw sewage into our beloved sea.

“What started as a group of concerned and shocked swimmers at a burst sewage pipe has swelled into a local movement of all seaside appreciators against this company’s behaviour and misplaced priorities of profit over environment, health and basic human need.

“This is just the beginning. We plan to get organised, stay organised and find creative and impactful ways to effect the necessary change to end sewage pollution outright. Hastings and St Leonards is a strong, outspoken community and we know we’re not alone; towns up and down the country have the same story to tell and when we link this up around the coast and take a stand together, they will have no choice but to listen.”

Yesterday’s protest was also held the day after Hastings Borough Council announced it is urging the Government to return the national water supply back to public ownership.

At the end of last month, Southern Water was first sent to a burst pipe under the cycle path at Bulverhythe beach, Cinque Ports Way, on Wednesday, July 28. Two days later there was a second serious sewage leak which flooded nearby beach huts and affected the beach.

As a result, the area was cordoned off and closed throughout the weekend, and into the early part of the following week.

Last month, Southern Water was fined a record £90 million for deliberately dumping sewage into the sea at 17 sites from Hampshire to Kent between 2010 and 2015.

This week a Southern Water spokesman said the company worked ‘rapidly’ after the sewer main broke close to Bulverhythe beach.

He said a fleet of tankers was deployed to manage flows so the firm could continue to provide wastewater services to customers and mitigate damage to the environment.

The spokesman said: “Work to repair the burst was completed quickly and a full clean up instituted. We have pledged to recompense the owners of beach huts directly impacted by the incident and have remained in close contact with them.

“We also liaised closely with the council, local MP and key agencies including the Environment Agency and Natural England throughout the incident.

“While events such as a broken pipe are hard to predict and hard to prevent, improving environmental performance is at the heart of Southern Water’s mission.”

The spokesman said the company plans to invest £1.7bn between 2020 and 2025 on improving its 367 wastewater treatment works, more than 3,000 pumping stations and added that 39,500km of network are being expanded and accelerated with an extra £235m available.

The spokesman added: “Our pollution incident reduction plan has the goal of halving incidents by 2025 and help us to target our spending where it will do most good.”

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