Doubts over Chichester sewer network’s capacity to cope with new homes

The leader and chief executive of Chichester District Council are to write to OFWAT to raise concerns about Southern Water’s ability to deal with the area’s wastewater.

Wastewater treatment works at Apuldram
Wastewater treatment works at Apuldram

They will also call on the water company to ‘admit plainly’ if it doesn’t have the capacity to connect new homes to the foul sewer network.

During a meeting of the full council, members agreed with a motion tabled by John-Henry Bowden (Lib Dem) that there were ‘well-founded’ doubts in Southern’s ability to provide what was needed for thousands of new homes over the coming years.

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Mr Bowden told the meeting there were already capacity issues at seven of the ten Wastewater Treatment Works across the district, two of which are shared with Arun and Havant.

This strain on the infrastructure will only get worse as more homes are built.

But, with Southern Water ‘obliged’ to provide the service, the council cannot cite the over-stretched infrastructure as a reason to reject planning applications.

Referring to the housing demands recently imposed by the government, Mr Bowden said: “Where will their sewage be treated? We can have little confidence that any development we plan will have the necessary infrastructure, when we know there is insufficient now.”

Gareth Evans (Lib Dem, Loxwood) added: “It is absolutely astonishing that a lack of waste water capacity is not a reason to reject a planning application.

“So we must act as a council to ensure that, while some future development is inevitable, Southern Water are obliged to ensure the right infrastructure is in place before any development can take place.”

Other concerns raised in the motion centred around the location of five of the Wastewater Treatment Works dotted along the Sussex coast and fears they were at risk from rising sea levels.

Mr Bowden said there was a a ‘clear risk’ of Pagham Harbour being affected by nitrates, which could have a serious impact on marine life.

Supported by the vast majority of councillors, the motion was seconded by Henry Potter (Con, Goodwood), who spoke about effluent being pumped into the River Lavant and sewage leaking into gardens from manhole covers.

Mr Potter said such a situation was ‘not tolerable in this day and age’ and branded Southern Water ‘a disgrace’.

A spokesman for Southern Water said: “Population growth and climate change are the two greatest challenges facing Southern Water – and water companies across the country.

“Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency has described them as the ‘jaws of death’.

“That is why our robust five-year plan contains a raft of measures to tackle the impacts not just in the Chichester area but across the region.

“We will be spending £3.2 billion over the next five years to improve and maintain or assets and networks.

“We regularly meet with Chichester District Council and the Environment Agency to discuss where investment needs to be made.”