Wealden District Council has hit out at the Government’s plans to reduce sewage being released into rivers and seas, saying “more ambitious deadlines” are needed.
Yesterday (Wednesday 22nd), the Conservative-controlled council voted in support of a motion ‘condemning’ the Government’s Storm Overflow Reduction Plan.
This plan, published last year, sets out the Government’s aims to reduce the practice of releasing sewage and excess rainwater into waterways by 75 per cent by 2035 and to completely stop it by 2050.
The motion was jointly-proposed by Conservative Council Leader Ann Newton and Liberal Democrat Councillor Neil Cleaver.
Introducing the motion, Cllr Newton said:
It truly sickens me every time I see it on the news that more sewage is being pumped from overflow pipes on our beaches into our seas or into our rivers. It is almost unbelievable, for the very reason that we are part of a civilised society.
I therefore ask you to support the first part of my motion, to write to the secretary of state to call for ambitious deadlines and for a joined-up approach between local authorities, government agencies and sewage companies to stop this most dreadful practice.Cllr Newton (Conservative)
The motion also called for water disposal authorities, such as Southern Water, to live-publish all details of storm overflows, to report annually on their infrastructure improvements and to become statutory consultees on all planning applications.
Cllr Cleaver said:
I’ve sat on planning for the past three-and-a-half years and it has become increasingly apparent to me that public health and wellbeing has to be given greater consideration in the context of planning and development.Cllr Cleaver (Lib Dem)
While passed, the motion did not receive unanimous support from the Council Chamber, due to concerns from Green Party Councillors around part of the motion’s wording.
The contentious wording stated that the Council “cannot refuse planning applications on this issue”. This was disputed by Cllr Ian Tysh (Green, Maresfield), who argued that recent court of appeal cases had shown planning applications could be refused on ‘pollution grounds’.
It was also argued that the wording could be seen as a way of ‘putting a lid’ on discussions of pollution during future planning applications.
Cllr Newton declined to accept the amendment, however, pointing to the Council’s record on planning appeals, which had seen refusals on drainage and sewerage grounds overturned.
She also disputed that the motion’s wording sought to inhibit debate and said the Council would ‘benefit’ from further investigation of the cases raised by Cllr Tysh.
In light of this, Cllr Tysh voted against the motion, while other Green Party councillors present abstained.
Cllr Newton had also declined to accept an amendment from Independent group leader David White, which asked to Council to ask for prison sentences for water companies executives found to have caused severe pollution.
In doing so, Cllr Newton said she was supportive of the amendment’s aims, but felt it diluted the original motion and suggested Cllr White to bring forward the amendment as a separate motion at a later date.