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District Council teams up with local authorities across the South East to demand Southern Water cleans up its act

Chichester District Council is one of more than 40 councils across the South East that have joined together to hold Southern Water to account over pollution and infrastructure failings.

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The group was set up in response to issues including flooding; sewage backing up into people's homes, gardens and roads; the ongoing problem of discharges into rivers and waterways; and the inability to deal with additional development.

The meeting was held on Tuesday 31 January when the group discussed action and experiences to date across the full Southern Water network.

Southern Water is responsible for wastewater across the region and for drinking water in other parts of the southeast.

Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Planning, Cllr Susan Taylor and Cllr Penny Plant, Cabinet Member for the Environment, at Chichester District Council both attended the meeting.

Susan said: "It's not just Chichester District Council which is frustrated at the issues and concerns, which lead back to Southern Water's failings.

"All of the councils attending the meeting were united in their pledge to hold Southern Water to account and press for immediate action, particularly in relation to upgrading and investing in the sewerage system.

"We have been challenging Southern Water in relation to their engagement with both the planning process and the environmental impacts of discharging sewage into Chichester Harbour for some time. This includes previously filing an official complaint about the company to the Water Services Regulation Authority, Ofwat. We believe the way forward is to work with our local authority partners to apply significant pressure on Southern Water.

"We are also involved in a Three Harbours Summit, which involves Southern Water and representatives from the council and other local authorities, along with relevant agencies such as Natural England, the Environment Agency, Chichester Harbour Conservancy, Langstone Harbour Board and Sussex Wildlife Trust. This is a positive step towards working together to help improve the harbour for future years to come. The aim is that this group will have a positive impact on Southern Water's five-year investment plan."

Penny adds: Only recently, senior representatives from Southern Water, the Environment Agency; Ofwat and Natural England were invited to the council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting so that they could be challenged on some of the serious problems our residents are facing.

"These include the recent flooding and associated drain surcharging; sewage and subsequent discharges into the harbour and water courses affecting the water quality of Chichester Harbour; delays in upgrades to the sewerage network; and slow responses to planning applications."

"Our residents deserve better. Unfortunately, we do not have the direct power to regulate Southern Water or require it to address its rather lengthy list of failings. But as local authorities working together, we can do our utmost to apply pressure to seek the required action needed to end this catalogue of failings."

All councils agreed that regular meetings should continue to take place at the end of the meeting.

Date of release: 6 February 2023

Reference: 4200