What can we do about water?

At the last meeting of Mundesley Parish Council I was asked what Norfolk County Council could do to get Anglian Water to improve its record on sewage discharge. In the spring, part of Mundesley beach had to be closed because of discharges following a burst pipe. We have since had a ‘don’t swim’ warning at Mundesley after another discharge.

The District Council (not the County Council) is the lead authority on environmental health and on coastal management, and the water companies don’t have to answer to local politicians as they are privately owned and are regulated by Parliament. But we can still raise issues with them and bring some pressure to bear. This is a summary of the exchange I had with the council officer in charge of waste and water management at County Hall and the information I sent to the Parish Council:

Anglian Water were recently ‘examined’ at Scrutiny Committee at County Hall. Scrutiny’s job is to examine the performance of public services in some depth. While we normally focus on County Council-run services we do sometimes call in external bodies such as AW. If you are keen, you can watch a recording of the session online here: Scrutiny Committee – 22nd March 2023 – YouTube. The AW session starts about 10 minutes in.

We asked them to come back and account for their actions again at a later date.

THE RIVER MUN: At the Scrutiny meeting I mentioned the work done at Frogshall to provide ecological solutions to cleaning the River Mun. It’s relevant because the owner’s treatment pond system lies just downstream from the AW plant at Northrepps and by cleaning the river it helps to reduce the damage caused by any flooding (as well as improving the quality of the river itself). I was also told recently that a group of 14 farmers have come together to work on improving the quality of the river. Henry Cator, the new chair of the Norfolk Strategic Flooding Alliance, has accepted my invitation to visit Frogshall to look at the project himself.

IMPLEMENTING SCHEDULE 3: This featured a lot in the Scrutiny Committee discussion. It is a change in the law that would increase the importance of water management in the planning process (I found this summary helpful: Understanding Schedule 3 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 | GeoSmart Information). Councillors and residents could, if they wish, write to Duncan Baker MP to urge the government to get a move on in making this long-promised change.

The Rivers Trust maintain a website that records information which can be used in pressing AW to take action: Raw sewage in our rivers | The Rivers Trust, and Anglian Water also publishes its own data: https://www.anglianwater.co.uk/services/sewers-and-drains/storm-overflows/

So the County Council can bring pressure to bear by calling AW back into Scrutiny. It can work with others, like the District Council, to push for action. And the council officer in charge of waste and water management has also pointed out to me that the Regional Flood and Coastal Committee has an environment sub-group, and that if we want to make points to the RFCC that could be done through our County Council representatives.