A “curious set of priorities” gets even more curious

A few days ago a correspondent raised questions on the curious set of priorities which seems to underlie the announcement on money for sewage improvements.

“Exmouth has over 2,000 hours of outfall into Lyme Bay and the Exe. Sidmouth just over 1,000 hours. I, therefore, would have thought that Exmouth should be prioritised.

“(The Lib. Dems list of the 5 worst beaches in the country which lists Sidmouth ahead of Exmouth Revealed: Worst beaches for dumped sewage – is your nearest beach on the list? YES two! | East Devon Watch did worry me. Exmouth beach having less pollution than Sidmouth beach didn’t seem right. However, if the surrounding outfalls from the town are included Exmouth has twice the sewage outfall than Sidmouth)

“And why choose Tipton St. John with 22 spills lasting 48 hours of pollution in 2021 into the small River Otter when upstream Honiton’s 2 main sewer storm overflow sites spilled 222 times for a total of 4759 hours, discharging into the River Otter?

The report below suggests investment is coming from taxpayer money not SWW which makes the priorities even more curious.

Who is claiming credit for what? Are elections underway?

Does Cllr. Philip Skinner (Local Tory group leader) know what he is talking about? – Owl

Cash to cut East Devon sewage

But Cranbrook misses out

Rob Kershaw, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

The government is investing in sewage works in East Devon following continued problems in the district.

South West Water (SWW), is often criticised at East Devon District Council’s planning meetings. But this week, water minister Rebecca Pow confirmed £70 million of cash to improving sewage systems in Sidmouth, Tipton St John and Axminister, as well as Falmouth in Cornwall .

East Devon’s share of the cash, part of a £1.6 billion water infrastructure investment by central government, will help prevent sewage overflows in Sidmouth and Tipton St John, as well as water pollution in Axminster.

Independent Cllr Mike Howe described the scheme as “great news” for his district, but was disappointed to learn the money does not cover areas such as Cranbrook, which despite being a new town, has faced issues since residents moved in.

“I’m struggling to understand the long-term plans for South West Water – even the medium-term plans for South West Water,” he said. “And although this money’s great for some areas, it doesn’t seem to have addressed the major concerns where development is happening.”

Cllr Howe lamented SWW’s approach of running more sewage through limited pipes as more housing is constructed,

“Cranbrook originally was designed with sewage works, but then they decided they didn’t need it,” he added. “And you’re sort of sat here thinking ‘that was a silly decision’ to put it mildly.”

Conservative leader Cllr Philip Skinner who, along with Cllr Howe, sits on the planning committee, praised East Devon’s MP Simon Jupp for his efforts to secure government funding, and welcomed the news.

“We’ve been driving this agenda as a district and also Simon has worked really hard on it from his angle and has applied lots of pressure,” he said. “Because the sewage issue in East Devon at the moment is massive; we’ve got awful problems with sewage – particularly in areas like Clyst St Mary where we get the flooding, and particularly in and around Exmouth where we get flooding. We’ve had all sorts of issues, but other areas as well.

“So, to hear this news – the funding coming for South West Water to tidy up their act really to be fair as pollutants – is really good news for us. So all credit really all round to ourselves in East Devon in applying the pressure that we have been, and also to Simon Jupp who has particularly pressured from his angle as well.”

Addressing concerns that not all of East Devon will benefit from the money, Cllr Skinner said: “Let’s not have a race to the bottom here. Let’s be very pleased for the bit that we have got. Let’s start with this bit and get this done, but Clyst St Mary – around there and Exmouth in particular – this is really good news. So let’s get this bit over the line and let’s get on and get everywhere else as well.”

Liberal Democrat Cllr Eileen Wragg, however, feels public money should not be spent on what she believes is an underdelivering private company.

“Water privatisation took place under the Thatcher government,” she said. “I therefore believe that taxpayers’ money should not be spent on supporting private companies, but rather the shareholders should be financially supporting improvements to the sewage system.

“Last year, SWW made a profit of £137.5 million and paid £213.1 million to its parent company Pennon. There is no justification for charging the public to pay for improvements, they already pay some of the highest water bills in the UK. Morally, it is unacceptable.”

Pennon, SWW’s parent company, has been contacted for comment.