Call to end ‘turds-in-street’. South West Water “summoned” to EDDC Scrutiny Committee.

A few weeks ago Owl posted: water profits surge as leaks wash away public trust. Since then, the Pennon Group (owner of South West Water) has published its latest half-year results showing profits are up, as was expected.

On “Improving river and coastal water quality” the bullish Pennon half-year report claims “our best ever performance” on bathing water (“100% water quality standards achieved at our bathing beaches”); and that they are “focused on reducing our impact on river quality by one third by 2025”.

Owl reads all this with “interest” considering Owl recently reported, according to the 2021 Water Quality report by Surfers Against Sewage, that: South West Water also produced a “notably poor performance for the third consecutive year”, with 406 discharges in the bathing water season on to popular beaches. Owl also reported a correspondent quoting Luke Pollard MP, shadow environment secretary, saying in October “Not one English river is in a healthy condition and there has been zero improvement since 2016.” 

Owl has also previously drawn attention to the fact that, though South West Water may not have found the resources to make any headway in reducing sewage pollution, it has found the time and effort to write a “green jobs” report on behalf of the Great South West.

The report, Levelling Up the Great South West: A G7 Legacy, analyses every parliamentary constituency in Devon and Cornwall and says that they deserve as much political attention as those in the electoral battleground of the so-called “Red Wall” in the North of England and Midlands. 

Owl has also questioned whether South West Water can be considered to have any authority or credibility to take the lead on “green” issues. Owl wonders who commissioned such a study?

Is South West Water emulating Sir Geoffrey Cox MP in the priorities devoted to “second Jobs” compared to the day job? In the case of  South West Water surely sorting out Clyst St Mary’s “turds in streets” has priority?

Owl wants everyone to remember, as well, the beavers who have to swim around in all this.

This special scrutiny meeting should be worth looking out for!

Too many sewage incidents in East Devon

Joe Ives, local democracy reporter

“Turds in the street” should be a thing of the past in East Devon – or at least that’s the hope for 2022.

East Devon councillors say they’ve had enough of surplus sewage spewing into road, so they’ve summonsed South West Water to explain what’s going wrong at a special meeting of the council’s scrutiny committee.

The water company has been under the spotlight after it was revealed that the company made 42,000 raw sewage discharges into Devon’s rivers and coastal areas last year.

It has been particularly bad for residents of Clyst St Mary. The village has flooded with sewage at least 11 times this year, with South West Water offering portable loos to the worst affected households, some of which were left without working toilets for up to 60 hours at a time.

The situation attracted criticism from local councillors and East Devon’s Conservative MP Simon Jupp.

Addressing the scrutiny committee, Councillor Eleanor Rylance (Lib Dems, Democratic Alliance Group, Broadclyst) said: “We actually have turds in the streets in some places when it rains, and that’s really not on. 

“This is 2021 we cannot be running a local area that has this sort of thing happening. We can’t have poo in the streets, we can’t have poo in the rivers and we can’t have poo in the sea. We need to find out why it’s happening and get it sorted out.”

Councillor Jess Bailey (Independent, West Hill and Aylesbeare), who suggested the meeting with South West Water and got unanimous agreement from committee members, said the issue was a “matter of massive public concern.”

“Having clean water in our rivers and on our coast is absolutely fundamental to East Devon, both for wildlife and tourism.”

Speaking recently about concerns over flooding in East Devon, South West Water’s engineering director Matt Crabtree said: “We are committed to delivering a permanent solution which will involve detailed works and upgrades to our network.”

4 thoughts on “Call to end ‘turds-in-street’. South West Water “summoned” to EDDC Scrutiny Committee.

  1. Although there is no doubt that South West Water should be called to account for their lack of investment to ensure provision of a satisfactory sewerage infrastructure to cope with the recent extensive development in the Clyst St Mary area and its environs, EDDC Planners must, surely, also shoulder some responsibility for the horrendous conditions that the poor residents of this village have had to tolerate for many years, which have now been highlighted by the media headlines of ‘Turds in the Street’ necessitating ‘Portaloos’ for those homes worst affected.

    For far too many years, EDDC Planners have been made aware of Clyst St Mary’s foul and surface water drainage shortcomings because local people have highlighted the problems when planning applications have been submitted. Recently this was evidenced in December 2020, when the Planning Committee approved (for purely economic reasons) the massive development at Winslade Park (to include employment for 2,000 workers and up to 94 residential units) with a full awareness of the infrastructure limitations and the past and present vulnerability of the existing Clyst St Mary sewerage system, which was accentuated by many local residents. Indeed, the Development Manager was recommended ‘to write to South West Water to express the Committee’s dissatisfaction at SWW’s brief consultation response to application 20/1001/MOUT and to advise that the Committee expect SWW to deal with, and take responsibility for, any foul drainage matters that arise as part of the development to ensure no impact upon existing residents’.

    Yet planners keep following the significant ‘build, build, building’ of housing, without guaranteeing that the necessary infrastructure is being provided, resulting in communities with thousands of housing – but no town centre (Cranbrook), large numbers of housing – but no ring road (Axminster) and housing in the hundreds in a village with no housing need – but no upgrades to highways, footpaths, lighting and sewerage infrastructure (Clyst St Mary)!

    It must be mandatory for developers to provide essential infrastructure improvements in their development proposals; South West Water and the Environment Agency must guarantee appropriate infrastructure provision with all developments and our representatives at East Devon and Devon County Councils need to ensure there is some serious joined-up thinking between all the contributors.

    Enough of the ‘Blame Game’! It is not good enough to ‘talk the talk’ in Local Plans and decision documentation representations and conditions – communities need them to ‘walk the walk’ – so that residents regularly wading through raw sewage in their homes and streets in 2022 will be a thing of the past!


    • I am not sure it is quite as easy as to blame EDDC Planners.

      1. For the last decade or more, consecutive Conservative Governments have consistently weakened the ability of local authorities ability to control development. Development of the National Planning Policy Framework put in place in 2012 was outsourced by the Conservative Government to a committee which included representatives of a large number of major Developers, and (perhaps unsurprisingly) according to Wikipedia “the NPPF introduced a presumption in favour of sustainable development”.

      2. The net result of this is that the council’s need to have strong evidence in a very limited range of reasons in which to refuse planning permission, and because of the high probability of Developers taking the decision to appeal (because of the BIG profits to be made if they overturn a refusal of PP) and the costs to the council of defending such appeals, councils are no longer willing to risk a refusal of planning permission that has any significant chance of being overturned at appeal.

      3. I am not a planning expert and so cannot say what weight issues of sewerage capacity have in planning matters and whether this is sufficient to allow them to refuse PP, but even if the council were minded to refuse planning permission on the grounds of sewerage capacity, history shows (e.g. in Feniton) that developers often make promises about making or funding improvements in order to gain planning permission but which are not delivered upon.

      All of the above is not to say that the EDDC planning system is not without fault – particularly in the period prior to the independent administration, where EDDC had a robust reputation for corruption in planning matters – but it genuinely is no as simple as to blame EDDC for permitting development in areas with sewerage capacity constraints.


  2. Does anybody really believe that South-West Water will take ANY notice of EDDC politely requesting that they reduce or eliminate “turds in the streets”?


  3. Clyst St Mary’s name is derived from the Celtic word ‘clyst’ meaning ‘clear stream’; so it is rather ironic to read of the present chronic sewage problems in this village that have resulted from the lack of investment in the infrastructure by the Pennon Group at South West Water!

    In the last few years around 100 new homes have been built in this village (all adding their sewage to an already antiquated drainage system that cannot cope)!
    Furthermore, last year EDDC Planners approved outline plans for Clyst St Mary which included 39 new homes on a green field, 40 four-storey flats opposite Winslade Manor and the refurbishment of the old Winslade Park offices accommodation for around 2,000 workers – so in anyone’s language that is a great deal of sewage waste.

    Hopefully, South West Water can urgently improve the current situation for this small neighbourhood before the developers heap more strain on the sewerage infrastructure and the existing community certainly agree with Councillor Bailey that this issue is a matter of ‘massive public concern’!

    With Burringtons seeking to promote their high-quality new homes in Clyst St Mary -the phrase
    ‘Turds on the Terrace’ is not quite so appealing as ‘Pimm’s on the Patio’!!


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