Call for Southern Water to report links between new housing and sewage releases

Calls for Southern Water to report links between housing development and sewage being released into waterways are set for debate by Lewes councillors next week.

On Monday (May 23), Lewes District Councillors are due to discuss a motion from Green Emily O’Brien, which calls on the authority to make ten resolutions connected to sewage discharges into rivers and the sea.

The motion covers a lot of ground, but includes a resolution for the council to ‘recognise there is clear evidence of deterioration of water quality due to cumulative impact of multiple sewage discharge events’.

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

It also includes a resolution for Southern Water to be asked to make clear the impact of new development on sewage discharge into local rivers and sea, when giving its official responses to planning applications within the district.

Green councillor Emily O'Brien

In a statement released ahead of the meeting, Cllr O’Brien said “I am delighted to be taking this important step asking Southern Water to ‘come clean’ on the real impact of development. Releasing untreated sewage ending into our rivers and seas is simply not ok.”

“It’s common sense that every new house and every new toilet will add to the sewage burden on an already overloaded system.

“Even worse, thanks to loopholes in the planning system introduced by government, we are facing an onslaught of extra new housing development outside of that agreed via the local plan. Yet, at the moment the link between development and sewage overload is not made visible when it comes to planning. It’s time for that to change.”

The motion notes this call on Southern Water would be a request, rather than something which was enforceable by the council.

When approached for comment, Southern Water offered a statement in response to the motion.

In it, Sandra Norval, Southern Water’s Future Growth Lead, said: “We have no say in developments and everyone has the right to connect to our system. We do provide detailed information to planning authorities about our assets and our ability to serve customers on every occasion.

“We plan for growth and involve developers as well as councils in the process.

“Between 2020 and 2025 we are spending £2 billion improving our network and equipment. We strive to be the most open and transparent company in the sector. We publish environmental on every aspect of our performance.

“Understanding the impact of our operations on river health is key – alongside other factors such as agriculture and industry – and we are currently poised to trial real time water quality monitoring in two locations – a UK first.”

The motion also calls on the council to makes requests of both Environment Agency and Natural England, asking the former to set out its understanding of the cumulative impact of sewage discharge on rivers in the district.

It also calls on the council to ensure its new local plan “fully assesses the cumulative impact of sewage discharge”.

To see the full motion, go to the Lewes District Council website and view the agenda at