Education will help the cumulative impact of sewage pollution

Water laps at 26 miles of our wonderful districts coastline, and along the banks of the two main rivers which flow through the district, the East Stour and the Nailbourne. It has been known that Southern Water has polluted our waters for a good number of years. This has lead to the regular closing down of our beaches, making them unavailable for residents and visitors to swim in. Southern Water continue to allow the pollution of the rivers and sea, through under investment in the best available technology to deal with the issues.

The sewage poured into them is a mixed bag of diluted and undiluted shit, nitrogen and phosphurus and many other products. The sewage begins in our homes, and workplaces. It is here through education that we can all reduce our pollution footprint.

Cllr Lesley Whybrow (Green) at full council, on Wed 28 Sept 2022, put a motion regarding the cumulative impacts of sewage by Southern Water pulluting our coast line and rivers. Point one of her motion stated:

Recognise this Council’s obligation to protect its rivers and seas, including from the cumulative impacts of pollution.

Cllr Whybrow’s motion and the debate around it can be seen below. The motion was passed, though heavily amended. The amendment invite’s Southern Water to attend the council’s Overview & Scrutiny Committee at the earliest opportunity to discuss practical solutions, to fix this this ongoing problem.

For the sake of transparency, Cllr Whybrow amended a motion submitted by Cllr Emily O’Brien (Green) to Lewes District Council back in May 2022 and Cllr Rachael Millward (Green) of Wealden Council in Aug 22; both of which were successfully passed at their respective council’s.

Cllr Whybrow’s motion is simply the work of others. But she unlike them was not successful, as her motion was heavily amended.

Both the Cllrs mentioned above, both worked with officers to draft their motions, and both were successful. As we understand Cllr Whybrow did not work with officers on her adapted motion. That said, in the motion, Cllr Whybrow mentions the issue of “cumulative impact” of pollution on our environment. She also mentions a recent legal opinion from the Environmental Law Foundation. 

The legal opinion on Sewage discharges and Local Planning Authorities written by Alex Shattock of Landmark Chambers, in short says the following:

In light of the above planning guidance and case law, I am firmly of the view that an Local Planning Authority (LPA) is perfectly entitled to form its own view of a given development’s impacts on the sewerage network, on the basis of the information put before it. In general, an LPA can also properly take into account cumulative pollution impacts for the purposes of granting planning permission.

While an LPA would, in most cases, be entitled to defer to a sewerage undertaker (Southern Water) on these kinds of questions, it is by no means required to do so. In circumstances where a sewerage undertaker indicates that it does not have any concerns about the impacts of a proposed development, cumulative or otherwise, it is simply not the case (as a matter of law or policy) that the LPA must defer to the sewerage undertaker on that question.

So in short, Folkestone & Hythe District Council’s Planning Committee can decide to turn down a major development on the issue of cumulative impact, if the information is put before it. However, it is very rare, that such information is put into an officer planning report.

Cllr Whybrow’s motion at point six was asking for this information to be put before the committee on major developments, such as Princes Parade & Otterpool Park for example. Point six says:

Request that planning officers, from now onwards, include in all reports relating to major development a specific section on the impact on watercourses including the potential for the development to affect sewage outflow into watercourses (i.e. cumulative impact), or to flag if this information is not fully available, so that this information (or the lack of it) is clearly and transparently set out.

Now of course the Tories saw the implications of the motion; that being it could scupper major developments such as Otterpool Park, or the 150 homes on Princes Parade. It was Cllr Stuart Peall (Con) who suggested the amendment for it to go to the Overview & Scrutiny Committee (OSC) for debate; which was agreed. However, OSC can only recommend to Cabinet that something be done. What with the Cabinet being a Tory stronghold, there is little to no chance of any of Cllr Whybrow’s motion changing policy, as they do not want the motion having a potential impact on Princes Parade or Otterpool Park.

Cllrs of all planning committees in England must remember Planning Officers are bound by the 2021 National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and the guidance which accompanies it.

Water and the Role of the Planning System is set out at Paragraph 188 of the NPPF; which directs Local Planning Authorities as follows:

“188. The focus of planning policies and decisions should be on whether proposed development is an acceptable use of land, rather than the control of processes or emissions (where these are subject to separate pollution control regimes). Planning decisions should assume that these regimes will operate effectively. Equally, where a planning decision has been made on a particular development, the planning issues should not be revisited through the permitting regimes operated by pollution control authorities.”

In short, as much as Cllr Whybrow’s motion may want to tackle the issues caused by the poorly performing Southern Water – there is very little scope for our Planning Committee, or Cllrs, to do so via the planning system, at present. District Councils can play their part, but pollution is in the main, the responsibility of national government, the Environment Agency and Ofwat.

No doubt many of you, if not all of you want the pollution into our seas and rivers to stop. But pollution is not just sewage – ie shit, diluted or undiluted. It is nitrates and phospahate as well.

So coming back to what we said at the beginning, Cllr Whybrow could actively do something, being the Cabinet Member for the Environment. She could use some of the £4.75m Climate Change money; which has been set aside for initiatives which will help the council hit its net-zero carbon emissions by 2030, by touring the district to educate people about household products which pollute both our seas and rivers.

Educating residents about reducing pollution to our seas and rivers at source, rather than treating it later on, is we believe a far more preferable and sensible solution to this part of the wider problem.

Cllr Whybrow could ask Southern Water for some money for an educational roadshow around the district, but will she? Every little helps after all.

If we continue as we are, your children and grandchildren will inherit a world vastly different from the one we inhabit now, and we should respect their future world as much as our own.

The Shepway Vox Team

Dissent is NOT a Crime


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1 Comment on Education will help the cumulative impact of sewage pollution

  1. WTF is Wimble on about at the end of the video. Affinity Water leaking sewage into our seas. The man is such a f**kwit

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