If there were any doubts about whether climate change being a reality then this was the year to prove it. And now we have a true Winter’s landscape upon us. November’s storms and floods fortunately had the occasional sunny day to encourage all the communities along the A259 from Havant to Fishbourne to come out and demonstrate their anger at the state of sewage across our AONB. It was a well organised event by Mayday Action Group. It was so successful both BBC South and Meridien TV led with it on their evening news.
We continue to lobby Westminster and its various relevant committees and occasionally we receive acknowledgements raising our hopes that our small effort might actually contribute to making changes.
The management of Southern Water and the constant discharges of raw sewage across the whole of the south coast has been a constant. It has been the cause of the downgrading of the SSSI protection of our AONB. It has created illness within our bathing communities. It has afflicted dogs with infections. It has caused the shutting down of our best beaches at the height of the summer season – England being the only country in Europe forced to do so. It has polluted our carbon capturing wetlands which are being depleted. It has contributed to the crash of the fishing industry around Selsey of locally caught crustaceans that was highlighted on BBC South. And now we hear that Southern Water released FIVE MONTHS worth of sewage onto our beaches in the first week of November. Their response: “Due to unprecedented stormy weather”. And so it goes on and on and on.
E COLI Found In Our Waters
SOSCA is a supporter of the Clean Harbours Project which has found high levels of E Coli in Langstone and Chichester Harbours. Under their direction, clean accredited laboratory tests show several E. coli readings over 1,000 cfu/100ml, with one reading in Langstone Harbour, near to the outflow at Budds Farm wastewater treatment works, as high as 380,000 cfu/100ml – 760 times the failure rate for levels of bacteria set under The EU Bathing Water Directive.
Water samples were taken from both Chichester and Langstone Harbours during November when, according to Southern Water’s own data (Beachbuoy) there were over 1,000hrs of untreated wastewater dumped into Chichester Harbour, plus over 350hrs released from Budds Farm alone into Langstone. Chichester Harbour is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Both harbours are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Results echo findings by the Chichester Harbour Conservancy, which reported five out of twelve test sites failing similar tests at the end of October and a further six out of nine sites failing two weeks later. The Langstone Harbour Board do not test water quality but significantly, a bit closer to the harbour boundary at Northney, measured at over 11 times acceptable levels (5800 cfu/100ml), coinciding with an untreated release from Langstone and giving strong evidence that the plume of untreated wastewater spreads between harbours.
This has implications for local harbour users, from wild swimmers and sailors to fishermen. The next question is – what else will they find?
Unfortunately it seems very unlikely that investment in infrastructure by Southern Water will NOT be realised, at least not within the next few decades.
Extraction by Portsmouth Water
The state of our ecology is also impacted by the constant strain put on water companies by the growing numbers of developments. The South East is home to 19 million people and has almost as many businesses as the rest of the country combined – making up 37% of the national economy. With more than 28 million people visiting our region each year, total demand for water can reach six billion litres a day.
In the long-term, four million extra people will live here. This is why the South East could account for around 50% of the UK’s future water demand. Estimates show we could need an extra 1 billion litres of water per day over the next 15 years. More than half the region’s water (up to 85% in some places) comes from underground aquifers. These aquifers rely on winter rainfall to fill them up to meet demands for water in spring and summer.
Portsmouth Water relies upon these aquifers for supplies and so when there is a drought the pressure on their source is under huge strain. What account has been taken for when these aquifers are unable to recharge due to drought or over abstraction?
The UK has 75% of all chalk streams on Earth. One of these rare chalk streams is The Ems. It is not a ‘winterbourne’. It rises at Stoughton in the SDNP and 8kms later flows out into the Slipper Mill Pond at Emsworth.
The history of The Ems is well recorded where it was once a constant stream throughout the year creating a rich and lasting biodiverse habitat that was home to salmon, trout, voles, otters, kingfishers, and many other species. The landscape of water cress beds, mills, reeds was a haven for insect life.
This entire stable environment was jeopardised the moment Portsmouth Water was licenced to
extract water in 1960. Over the years of constant extraction this special chalk stream has now become a mere collection of puddles with all wildlife decimated and all horticultural activity ceased. As a result it is now within the worst 3% of rivers in the UK.
This is yet another example of a succession of governments who have poured yet more housing upon an already over stretched South East without any long term joined up policies for providing a stable crucial commodity such as water.
In their report Water Resources South East (WRSE) have identified the need for £15.6 billion of investment over the next 50 years as part of its draft regional plan for securing water supplies in the South East of England. The alliance of water companies said the investment is necessary to avoid potential daily shortfalls in the “water-scarce” region of 0.8 billion litres by 2035 and 2.7 billion litres by 2075.
The Government’s Levelling Up and Realignment Bill was given a reading recently and a few days prior to its Committee meeting SOSCA, sent out our press release ‘Enough’. It was sent individually to all the members of the Committee and to all the MPs in Hampshire, Surrey, Kent, East and West Sussex, together with a letter emphasising that SOSCA is not against housing :
“We absolutely recognise the need for more housing but housing that is affordable for the young, that are not second homes, that are in the right place (for example not on flood plains), that are built to counter climate change in the true sense of ‘sustainability’, that encourages innovative design, that does not damage the environment and, most of all, has infrastructure in place before development. These are aspirations that already exist across Europe but here in the UK it seems there is no will by government to think long term and imaginatively”.
It was interesting how many MPs acknowledged receipt including a member of the Committee. And now Michael Gove has made a spectacular ‘U’ turn after 60 MPs rebelled. It has at last admitted that local authorities will be allowed to build fewer homes ‘if they can show that centrally imposed developments would significantly alter the character of their area.’ And more.
There is now a real need for our elected representatives within our Councils to stand up and demand these changes or at least call a moratorium until such time as the Bill is passed. In the Dec 8th edition of the Chichester Observer our MP Gillian Keegan said: “After years of campaigning and several meetings with ministers, I’m really glad that the Government has listened to our calls for a more flexible, community-led approach around housing targets.”
It is interesting that this amount of ‘action’ might come as somewhat of a surprise to most of her constituents.
Climate Change is already affecting our coastal barriers. The storms of last winter caused incursions along our coast with walls and shingle being undermined and threatening the existence of households.
It would seem an obvious decision to protect the shoreline of our AONB but it seems not according to Natural England. A recent example is the sea defence along the bund of Fishbourne Meadows. This was damaged by the great storms earlier in the year and the sea wall path was closed to the public and a sign went up to say it would be repaired by September.
September has been and gone – nothing happened. As a result the wall is almost beyond repair. The stones litter the sea shore and could easily be collected and reinstated. They have however provided a series of duck boards to facilitate walkers for when the sea does eventually form an incursion. Apparently this is an intentional outcome for it will form a wonderful saltmarsh which will form the basis of a growing wildlife habitat.
Unfortunately it seems no one has taken into account that the River Lavant exits immediately into the harbour alongside this proposed new marshland. The Lavant flows past Southern Water’s Waste Water Works and is often used by them to hold back sewage they have not been able to service due to overcapacity and which, at high tide, they then let out into the AONB of Chichester Harbour. We are not sure how this will help bio-diversity in a newly formed saltmarsh. It is a great pity that the feasibility study being commissioned by Chichester Harbour Conservancy was not set in motion nine months ago which might then have made the ‘non repair’ decision irrelevant. As it is the whole wall will now be compromised under the threat from the impending winter storms.
Meanwhile, more sea defences in Bracklesham, Hayling Island and Portsmouth have also been severely compromised in recent weeks. Hayling Island in particular suffered flooding due to sea breaches and significant drainage overflows.
To encourage the next generation to become involved in their local environment we have engaged with Solent University to create animated graphics and update designs for our web site.
This is to illustrate how over the coming years the entire Solent region and Chichester Coastal Plain will be under threat from various forms of climate change. We are also engaging with one of their post graduates to help us with updating our web site to raise greater awareness of all the issues we are facing.
This is only possible through the wonderful donations given by many supporters for which we are most grateful. Our social media has been immensely influential keeping everyone abreast of the reality of our situation with updates, photos, and input from all the many local action groups.
Chidham Planning Appeal – Change of Date
The Planning Inquiry in September had to be postponed as so many members of the public turned up. It is now scheduled for:
WEDNESDAY 4th JANUARY At - 10 am
At - EMSWORTH BAPTIST CHURCH
What is at stake are the following Applications -
20/03321/OUTEIA | Outline planning application for 68 dwellings west of Drift Lane
20/03320/OUTEIA | Outline planning application for up to 132 dwellings east of Broad Road
As before, The Parish Council are asking as many of you as possible to attend on Day 1 (4th January) to show the Inspector the strength of feeling against these two developments. If you would like to speak you need to register on this day or ask someone to do it on your behalf. The opportunity to speak will be on Friday 13 January. However, just your attendance on the first day will show a strong message. For further information please contact Jane Towers at the Chidham and Hambrook Parish Council.
So we reach the end of a remarkable year with a taste of what is to come with our weather patterns. Huge damaging storms creating flooding and the relentless discharges of sewage. The size of the waves in these storms formed incursions into our sea defences. Then a mad summer of record breaking heat and droughts. Then food security hit our shores as a truly evil and totally unwarranted war broke out in Europe. At the very end of the year a chink of light has appeared– the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill has declared that after years of our communities screaming the obvious they have acknowledged that their housing policy is causing more damage than joy.