In a stark admission made by Simon Thomas head of Canterbury City Council’s planning department, in relation to the Stodmarsh Nutrient Neutrality issue; has said:
The longer-term proposals to upgrade the wastewater treatment works at Canterbury will help deal with phosphorous, and to some extent, nitrogen, but that upgrade is likely to be at least 8 years in the future.
Offsetting nitrates by changing land use (e.g. by creating wetlands).
Another way is using phosphate removal, technologies, such as those installed at Hailsham Wastewater treatment facility. These are drinking water treatment processes and not commonly used in wastewater.
Biological removal, however, this only works if there is highly concentrated sewage with a low flow rate, so may not be applicable in many situations (particularly where foul and surface water is mixed together).
Regarding the wetland solution, first one has to find the land and purchase it, plus one has to realise, wetlands take a long time to engineer and to become efficient, but there is the opportunity to improve wastewater treatment works sooner. Ian McAulay was asked if he and Southern Water could provide firm dates when the Canterbury wastewater treatment works (WWTW) will be upgraded, along with other contributing WWTW sites. But he was reluctant to do so, even though the Canterbury wastewater treatment works has the biggest impact on water quality in the Stodmarsh lakes. He did also mention the Canterbury WWTW is due to be upgraded in 8 years (2030).
So is it acceptable there is going to be no new houses built in the affected parts of Kent for the next 8 years? Well if your a developer the answer is simply NO. However, if your an environmental campaigner wanting to delay new housing the answer would more likely than not be yes.
Natural England have said that they would accept a statement which shows a collection of various improvements over the short, medium, and long term, and this would allow planning consents to be provided once more.
It takes approximately a year to build a house, so if short term solutions could start to be implemented within 12 months, the construction sector could start to function again. It is crucial for the house building sector (read developers) that this happens, as currently 50,000 houses per annum cannot be built, according to Roland Cooper (pictured) of Considine Limited. Southern Water though are elusive about providing any earlier upgrade date than 2030.
For those of you who might not be aware, 40% of the nitrogen is already in the system, and has been there for nearly 100 years; Southern Water is not starting with a clean slate, but must work to remediate historical damage to the work supplies made by our ancestors. The sole solution is NOT to build bigger wastewater treatment works. The solution must be more holistic. There is a need to plan water as a system, and create a combination of solutions.
The housing being built today is not the problem, it is the inherited issue which is affecting water-quality at Stodmarsh according to Southern Water. However, switching off all new house building is not the solution either. Removing surface water out of the system and creating new wetlands, are not quick wins.
So is it acceptable there is going to be no new large housing developments built in the affected parts of Kent for the next 8 years. Well, if your a developer the answer is simply NO. However, if your an environmental campaigner wanting to delay new housing the answer would more likely than not be yes.
Now you think 50,000 homes per year would surely generate sufficient income to upgrade the Canterbury WWTWs. But that is not the case. 50,000 new houses does not generate sufficient income to fund the necessary infrastructure investment necessary at Canterbury. Water company revenue streams do not cover the cost of infrastructure investment, which is why all water companies borrow.
We understand that Southern Water is hosting a workshop in December (2022) looking at the system for new developments. At this workshop, partners will consider the water system and how best to work together.
Circa 60% of Kent and Medway is farmland, so if the conversation regarding the design of the water system is to be inclusive, then farmers and growers must be included in the conversation. The horticultural and agricultural sector could help create and implement holistic solutions to improve water quality. Perhaps farmers should be paid to farm water, as they are rather good at it.
Affected councils – Ashford, Canterbury, Dover Folkestone & Hythe and Maidstone are working together to proactively design solutions which is being led by Ashford and Canterbury who have both employed the same consultant, and are working together to create an in-combination solution.
We understand the affected Councils are exploring buying land, so that wetlands can be created. However, local councils and Southern Water are only two pieces of the jigsaw puzzle, central government is the third piece necessary to resolve this issue. But they as yet have failed to get involved. Until they do, the Stodmarsh Nutrient issue will rumble on, affecting Council revenues and developers bottom line. Some might say that’s not a bad thing.
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