Harlow Labour leader welcomes government u-turn on sewage amendment

News / Wed 27th Oct 2021 at 04:41pm

LABOUR Cllr Chris Vince welcomes government u-turn on sewage amendment but questions the mess we’re in

In the recent series of votes on the Environment Bill, Labour MPs voted to end the routine discharge of raw sewage into rivers and seas. Conservative MPs voted against the cross-party amendment tabled by the Duke of Wellington in the House of Lords, and MP Robert Halfon also voted against.. This led to the amendment being defeated.

The amendment to ban the release of raw sewage returned to the House of Lords for another vote, which has led to the government making a u-turn. 

Cllr Chris Vince said: “It is a victory for all those who have stood up for the health of our rivers including the thousands of members of the general public who have made their wishes clear,” states The Rivers Trust.Harlow Labour Group Leader Chris Vince was disappointed to see that Robert Halfon MP once again voted with his party rather than putting the welfare of Harlow residents first, but heartened that Harlow people have demanded to be heard. Cllr Vince said: “I am grateful to every Harlow constituent that has written to MP Robert Halfon and raised their voice to demand The Conservatives u-turn on their decision to block the Environment Bill amendment so that water companies are forced to reduce the amount of sewage they pump into our rivers and seas.

“I read with interest that while Robert Halfon MP is seen to be supporting the calls for the reconsideration of the second crossing across the River Stort, he is also supporting his government’s housing policy which is allowing – demanding, in fact – that East Herts Council build 10,000 houses on Harlow’s borders, and he and his Conservative colleagues then voted in favour of allowing companies to dump untreated raw sewage into our rivers and waterways. Sadly once again what he says in public and what he votes for in the House of Commons seem to be two very different things.”

Raw sewage is being routinely released into rivers. In the last year alone, raw sewage was discharged into UK rivers and seas over 400,000 times. There were 2,941 discharges into UK coastal bathing waters during the May-September bathing season alone, severely impacting coastal communities. The UK is ranked last in the EU for bathing water quality. None of our rivers are in a healthy condition, with none meeting good chemical standards and only 14% meeting good ecological standards. 

Chris Vince continues: “It’s fair to say that raw sewage was being released into rivers before this vote and it will continue to be. As more houses are built, they rarely come with the addition of extra sewage treatment facilities or allowance for storm overflows which would go some way to protect our waterways, which is a problem which must be addressed in the development of Harlow and Gilston Garden Town.

“It is hoped that this u-turn does represent a duty enshrined in law to ensure water companies secure a progressive reduction in the adverse impacts of discharges from storm overflows, rather than being just a way to appease some Conservative ministers and prevent a rebellion in the Tory ranks. The environment and the constituents of our town and country deserve better than this.
“We need to look at why water companies have been allowed to release raw sewage, unchallenged, for so long. Back in 1994, the Labour Party highlighted the scope for conflict of interest as water companies were linked to Tory donations, including Thames Water. As MP Robert Halfon states, our sewage and rainfall pipes have not been upgraded since the Victorian era. With their privatisation of the water industry, the Conservatives missed an opportunity to oblige the industry to upgrade and retrofit our systems. The situation has progressively got worse, and the government has done nothing to slow this. It seems that profits have been put before people, biodiversity and the environment once more.”

Luke Pollard MP, Shadow Environment Secretary said:  “People are right to be upset at the dreadful state of England’s rivers. Not one English river is in a healthy condition and there has been zero improvement since 2016. The Government is to blame for allowing water companies to vent raw sewage into our rivers and seas seemingly at will. The £millions which go to shareholders do nothing to help with cleaning up our rivers and seas. The Tories should learn from the record and experience of the Welsh Labour government who have been able to require sustainable drainage systems to reduce the load on sewage systems and make investing to tackle future challenges a top priority.” 

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2 Comments for Harlow Labour leader welcomes government u-turn on sewage amendment:

Michael Hatton
2021-10-28 06:26:58

Sir, It's amazing to read that the leader of the F I M group in the the town hall is now spouting off about sewage, and the other rubbish that plagues us all. Is there nothing that he isn't an expert on ?

2021-10-28 11:45:51

HGGT Gilston Estate: documents submitted by the developers to East Herts Planning say that they propose to have separate surface water and sewage systems, this will help prevent the new development from being flooded with surface water and sewage. However, they also say there's a possibility that the systems may inadvertently be joined worrying. However, unfortunately, all of the surface water and sewage from the Hggt Gilston Estate development is to be channelled into the Stort River Valley and towards Harlow into the Thames trunk sewer, the river, wetlands and a much reduced flood plain. The outdated Harlow system is a combined surface water and sewage system: reports from Hggt submitted to East Herts and Harlow Planning indicate that their plans are built on the belief that because manholes in the Valley and Harlow are particularly deep that the flood plain and sewer can cope with surface water and sewage from both Harlow and Hggt. Unfortunately the development planners in their submissions to East Herts Planning and Naisha Polaine Director of HGGT (reportedly at Harlow Civic Society Meeting October 2021) are unaware that the Harlow systems repeatedly are already overwhelmed by even quite moderate rain storms and homes have been flooded and sewage and industrial chemicals discharged into the environment, river, wetlands flood plain and homes. The situation will be made worse by the raised road barrier culverted bridge barrier Eastern Crossing that will cut across the valley that will not only create atmospheric pollution, congestion and destroy the tranquil valley environment but will bisect and damage the flood plain and wildlife and make the flooding problems far worse. Harlow and the River Valley Valley ecology will suffer all of the downsides but there are other options that are far greener and people friendly. The developers and pfp Council partners (Harlow Council, East Herts and Epping) seem blind to the negative impacts in a race to meet random house and road building targets set by government, unable to comprehend Climate change and unwilling to think about new ultra green development models that will solve housing problems but also help restore the environment. There promises to be a requirement in the new environment Bill for developments to improve biodiversity by 10 %, but the Government threw out all of the amendments recommended from the Lords that would have helped ensure this would happen and hence the outcry about sewage discharges into rivers. What the public has missed is that protection for irreplaceable ancient woodland, highly important ecosystems, was also rejected. These are being cut down at an increasing and alarming rate, and in the Stort Valley equally important trees are already being felled in anticipation of planning permission being granted for the Eastern Crossing. HGGT development at 5th Avenue Central crossing will also mean a loss of essential flood plain even before hggt is built: this despite estimates that indicate that an increase of at least 10% of flood plain is needed. We already have the worst river quality in Europe and despite the Water Directive saying in law that river water quality should be improved by at least 5 % by development matters get worse. Of course such has been the deluge of sewage and other pollution entering our river we start from a very low base: 5 % improvement of nothing is nothing, 5% improvement of 1% level of originally clean is still only 1.005 % of what we should have, a 98.995 % shortfall. Many years ago my children used to enjoy canoeing out of the Harlow Outdoor Pursuits Centre, an excellent centre, but I don't think I'd be so keen for my grandchildren to participate today, particularly after a period of rain. Harlow Council not only needs to Save Our Stort by stopping the Eastern Crossing but needs to protect Harlow from the traffic, surface water and sewage from hggt. The sewage system problem was flagged up many years ago by Stop Harlow North campaign but Harlow Council has ignored the issue and via Place for People backed the development without insisting that new sewage and surface water treatment works need to be constructed within the Gilston Estate development, that Harlow gets a new SuDs and sewage system, the River Valley environment is ecology improved and more flood plain created to help protect the town from future flooding.

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