Sewage crisis may get worse, says MP

New housing could worsen already serious problems with sewage in Pulborough and other growing villages.

That is the grim warning of MP Nick Herbert, who this week told the House of Commons about “sewage flowing though gardens” in his Arundel and South Downs constituency.

Mr Herbert, whose constituency includes Cowfold, Henfield, Pulborough, Steyning and Storrington, told MPs: “The levels of development in some villages have not been matched by adequate sewerage provision. When combined with the lack of an adequate water supply in the area, that can result in sewage flowing though people’s gardens after not particularly heavy rainfall.

“There is inadequate local infrastructure to support the present level of housing provision. What are we going to do to ensure that proper levels of infrastructure are put in place to support the necessary additional development?

“There is a general acceptance in the communities I represent that additional housing is needed. There is a lack of affordable housing in the villages and people recognise that some additional housing will be necessary. The question is whether it will be provided on a sustainable basis, with proper provision for the infrastructure necessary to support it.”

Cllr Andy Tilbrook, of Pulborough Parish Council, said: “The infrastructure and service problems that Nick Herbert has raised have a strong resonance in Pulborough. There have been problems with sewerage and drainage here.

“Issues that Pulborough are facing are beginning to be addressed, and we had a useful meeting with our district councillors, district council officials and Southern Water this week. However, the schedule to get these problems addressed is not certain and is painfully slow.

“The main east-west sewer in central Pulborough runs through residents’ gardens south of Lower Street, relatively close to the River Arun and its floodplain. This cast-iron sewer was installed in the early 1930s and, according to Southern Water at this week’s meeting, is corroded, is sagging in places, blocks regularly and needs replacing.

“Some local residents have manhole covers in their gardens. When the pipe is jetted by Southern Water’s contractors, the manhole covers lift off and foul material flows south towards the Arun.

“I am pleased that Southern Water is to put a proposal in to divert flow away from this sewer, but this proposal will be made in 2014 and any work will be carried out between 2015 and 2020. This part of the sewerage system will not be suitable to accept any flows from significant new developments for at least another three years and probably much longer.

“More solid waste – disposable nappies, fat – is now put into the sewerage system and many more households than were anticipated when the sewer was installed discharge into it.

“One former water company employee on the Pulborough Community Partnership has estimated that there may be about 100 points within Pulborough where drainage flows into the sewerage system.

“Another problem area is around Tescos, the police station and Chestnut Walk on the A29. The stream that flows through this area is now culverted. Because of the culverting, the stream can no longer accept flow from springs to the south and natural drainage from the hills to the north and south easily.

“Without the various authorities acting in concert with local landowners, this part of the system cannot accept sewerage flows from any further significant development without putting existing residents’ wellbeing at an unacceptably high risk.”

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