South West Water to spend £10m on anti-pollution drive

Peanuts and most of it is not “new money” [£5.3m of investment which has been already delivered and a further £4.5m which is a combination of accelerated spending, alongside new investment to support “nature-based solutions” which aim to reduce nutrient pollution in the area] – Owl

Context:

Water companies have collectively cut investment in wastewater and sewage networks by almost a fifth in the 30 years since they were privatised. They have collectively paid out more than £15 billion in dividends to shareholders since 2010 and their bosses have been paid more than £65 million in the past five years.

Remember that both Simon Jupp and Neil Parish dutifully voted last October against the Lords amendment imposing legal duties on water companies to clean up their act. 

Susan Davy, chief executive of Pennon, the parent company of South West Water, was paid £1.7 million, including £1.2 million in bonuses in 2020/2021

Owl notes that the claimed “commitment” is “almost” £10m of which only £4.5m is new money little more than twice Susan Davy’s pay for last year and we don’t know over how many years this “commitment” is spread.

Coincidentally South West Water attended a special virtual EDDC scrutiny meeting on Thursday to answer questions about water pollution in East Devon. Recording can be found on EDDC YouTube channel here.

Latest Pennon Group financial report

South West Water to spend £10m on anti-pollution drive

William Telford www.business-live.co.uk

Utilities giant South West Water has committed almost £10m to helping offset the impact of future housing development on two rivers just months after the Environment Agency found it had missed pollution targets for the 10th year running.

The Exeter-based company, part of Pennon Group, will now splash the cash on the Rivers Axe and Camel catchments. It includes £5.3m of investment which has been already delivered and a further £4.5m which is a combination of accelerated spending, alongside new investment to support “nature-based solutions” which aim to reduce nutrient pollution in the area.

The company said that while development unlocks jobs and homes, it also has an environmental impact that the nature-based solutions it will deliver through this funding will support more sustainable development to progress.

Investment includes funding to improve treatment works, alongside building on South West Water’s existing Up Stream Thinking catchment management programme which works with partners to protect and enhance land and natural habitats.

Work in this area will create up to 100 hectares of new woodland and wetlands, which will form natural buffers to improve river water quality and also improve habitats and help ecosystems thrive.

South West Water said will also continue to work closely with developers to promote nature-based drainage solutions for new developments and make sure that networks have sufficient capacity when new homes are built.

The announcement comes just months after the Environment Agency hit South West Water with the lowest environmental rating of the nine large privatised sewage and water companies in England and Wales.

In 2021, the regulator singled out the regional monopoly for its poor record, and said its 2020 performance had been “consistently unacceptable” for the 10th year running. Stock Exchange listed Pennon, which was recently given approval to take over Bristol Water, has been criticised for slashing capital expenditure in the past.

And in 2021, campaign group Surfers Against Sewage annual Water Quality report – which said water companies spilled raw sewage into coastal waters 5,517 times during a 12-month period – criticised discharges near beaches in the South West Water region during the bathing season and called out a “notably poor performance for the third consecutive year”.

Susan Davy, chief executive of Pennon Group, said the new spending will, however, do much to benefit the environment, and said: “We have a track record of working with partners across our region to restore, protect and enhance around 100,000 hectares of land through our catchment management programme. This investment will help unlock more sustainable housing development through the planting of trees and the creation of wetlands in the catchment through continued partnership work. We recognise the importance of doing what we can to help unlock the region’s shared levelling up ambitions.”

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