Update 20 July 2021
Alan has launched a new Forum alongside other MPs from Hampshire, West Sussex and the Isle of Wight to drive improvements in water quality in Langstone and Chichester Harbours and the wider Solent region.
These provide unique habitats for plants and wildlife, as well as being used extensively by water sports enthusiasts.
The MPs brought together local community representatives and officials from the Environment Agency and local government with Southern Water’s Chief Executive to discuss the water company’s plans to phase out storm water releases and improve local water quality in Langstone and Chichester Harbours and the wider Solent region. The Forum also heard from Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow, who set out the steps the Government is already taking, such as implementing a legal phase out of storm water releases, mandating improvements in the water efficiency of homes and requiring housebuilders to mitigate the effects of new developments.
Another live issue was the release of stormwater into Langstone and Chichester Harbours by Southern Water. During and after periods of heavy rainfall, their systems can release releases into local harbours causing concerns for the health of harbour users and the environment. MPs called on Southern Water to set out their plan to phase out releases to comply with the new legal obligations set out in the new Environment Act.
Southern Water’s CEO Ian McAuley said he was committed to reducing the frequency of releases, and pointed to their current work with Natural England and universities to build a new digital ‘baseline’ assessment system, expected to be up and running within a year.
The new baseline assessment tool will be key to accurately identifying the sources of pollution within the harbours, providing the partnership the ability to implement targeted solutions and track the impacts accordingly, to tackle the issue of pollution and protect these precious natural habitats.
Studies are also underway to improve drainage through nature-based solutions.
Speaking at the Forum, Mr McAulay said: “The systems we have in place today are not the systems we need to get to where we want to be tomorrow, for the benefit of our customers and the environment. You have my full support and I really like the fact that people are talking about water quality.”
Mr Mak said: ‘I’ve been working on this issue for several years, and having proposed the creation of the Forum I’m pleased Southern Water are taking this issue seriously and working constructively to improve the health of our harbours and the wider Solent. However, the Forum’s MPs recognise there’s more work to do and we are working together to continue pressing Southern Water to improve water quality in our region”.
The MPs plan to follow up with another meeting of the new Forum this autumn, to track progress and press for further action.
Update 9 July 2021
Alan Mak MP has welcomed the record fine that was imposed on Southern Water for historic illegal discharges which included into Langstone Harbour.
The offences were discovered as part of the Environment Agency's largest ever criminal investigation. In total, the water company was fined £90million for discharges into 17 sites in Hampshire, Kent and West Sussex between 2010 and 2015.
Alan Mak MP said: "Southern Water deserve to be punished because their historic behaviour showed total disregard for our environment and they rightly received a record fine. The Government is passing a law to make water companies phase out discharges, and I'll continue my campaign to keep up the pressure on Southern Water to clean up their behaviour and our local waters."
Update 8 April 2021
Southern Water have announced a new £5million environmental improvement fund to improve water quality at Chichester Harbour and Langstone Harbour, following Alan’s campaigning.
This will be spent on initiatives that deliver both nature-based solutions and environment net-gain for both harbours.
The full announcement can be found here: https://www.southernwater.co.uk/the-news-room/the-media-centre/2021/april/southern-water-commits-to-action-and-investment-to-improve-our-harbours
Alan welcomed the investment, commenting: “I’ve campaigned for several years to improve water quality in Langstone and Chichester Harbours, and I look forward to continuing my work Southern Water, neighbouring MPs, community representatives and statutory agencies.
“Southern Water will play a key role in reducing discharges and ending storm overflows, and this investment is a good first step. I look forward to their detailed plan setting out how they will meet the new legal obligations set by the Government.”
Update 29 March 2021
Local MP Alan Mak has welcomed a Government announcement for new legislation to reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows.
The Havant Constituency MP has played a leading role in the national campaign to improve our coastal harbours and bathing waters. That included supporting the objectives of the Sewage (Inland Waters) Private Members Bill brought forward by Philip Dunne MP earlier this year.
Now Alan’s campaigning work in Westminster has been successful as the Government has confirmed it will turn into law several key policies that will make our rivers and harbours cleaner. The new legislation will create three key duties to deliver some of the changes needed to improve our water environment:
- a duty on government to publish a plan by September 2022 to reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows;
- a duty on government to report to Parliament on progress on implementing the plan; and
- a duty on water companies to publish data on storm overflow operation on an annual basis.
This builds on the work already underway by the Storm Overflows Taskforce, set up in September 2020 to bring together government, the water industry, regulators and environmental NGOs to accelerate progress in this area.
Locally, Alan has been keeping up the pressure on Southern Water and is in the coming months launching a new regional forum. This will bring together key invited stakeholders from across our region to work with Southern Water to improve local water quality. This new forum will build on the work already achieved by Mr Mak’s Hayling Island Environment Forum.
The commitment by Southern Water follows the announcement of the Government’s Storm Overflows Taskforce – made up of Defra, the Environment Agency, Ofwat, Consumer Council for Water, Blueprint for Water and Water UK – which agreed to set a long-term goal of eliminating discharges from storm overflows.
Mr Mak said: “Having campaigned on this issue locally for many years, and campaigned alongside Philip Dunne MP in Parliament for a reduction in the use of storm overflows through the Sewage (Inland) Waters Bill, I am delighted that the Government is bringing forward this new legislation. These new laws will give further protection for users of Langstone Harbour and Chichester Harbour all-year round.
“Now the Government has made this announcement, I will continue to put pressure on Southern Water to improve performance and publish their plan to end the use of storm overflows. I’m also proposing a new Regional Forum to work with them to improve our local water quality.”
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “Putting new commitments into law is an important step forward to cut down the water sector’s reliance on storm overflows.
“This step is one of many – but an important one nonetheless – to provide greater protection for our water environment and the wildlife that relies on it.”
Update 23 February 2021
Local MP Alan Mak met Southern Water CEO to press the water company on its plans to reduce discharges into Langstone and Chichester Harbours.
At the meeting, Southern Water has reaffirmed its commitment to meeting new Government targets to improve water quality following the meeting held with Mr Mak.
The Government’s Storm Overflows Taskforce – made up of Defra, the Environment Agency, Ofwat, Consumer Council for Water, Blueprint for Water and Water UK – has set a long-term goal of eliminating discharges from storm overflows. The same group has also recently been instrumental in introducing a framework for the creation of integrated Drainage and Wastewater Management Plans which are currently being developed.
Havant Constituency MP Mr Mak has played a leading role in the national campaign to improve our coastal harbours and bathing waters. As part of those efforts, he’s launching a regional forum bring together other MPs, councils and community groups from across our region to with Southern Water to improve local water quality.
This new forum will build on the work already achieved by Mr Mak’s Hayling Island Environment Forum over the last two years, where Southern Water has shared the improvements it has made with its voluntary Beachbuoy spill notification system.
During the meeting with Mr Mak on February 18th, Southern Water CEO Ian McAulay outlined what he described as the “holistic, cross sectoral approaches needed to enhance the health of bathing waters, rivers and water quality in harbours”.
Stormwater releases are designed to prevent homes and properties from flooding during periods of very heavy rainfall when the capacity of the system can be exceeded. However, a combination of climate change bringing significantly more periods of intense rainfall, alongside more surface water entering into combined sewer systems, has meant increasing use of these overflows, especially during the winter months. Southern Water say that The Task Force had been advised that it would take up to 25 years and around £100Bn of investment to phase out storm overflows entirely and ensure that wastewater sewage is separated from rainwater.
On the call with Mr Mak, Southern Water confirmed it will share the relevant key work and improvements it is making as part of its business plan. This includes reducing the amount of surface water from getting into and overloading sewer pipes, especially during times of heavy rainfall. It will also highlight the key areas where there are opportunities for more joined up approaches such as in the introduction of Drainage Management Plans.
Mr Mak said: “Having campaigned on this issue for several years, I’m keeping up the pressure on Southern Water to reduce discharges and produce a new plan explaining how they will meet the Government’s new targets. My meeting with Southern Water’s Chief Executive was encouraging and I am pleased that they have agreed to both publish a plan and also take part in a new stakeholder forum I am creating to tackle stormwater discharges into Langstone and Chichester Harbour”.
“There is more work to be done and it remains a long-term goal to ensure that we reduce the reliance on combined sewer overflows. I look forward to seeing Southern Water’s plan to tackle this very important issue.”
Southern Water CEO Ian McAulay said: “We welcome the Taskforce’s overall goal to eliminate stormwater releases. This is a matter that needs to be looked at holistically, with authorities and key organisations working collaboratively to drive the change we all want.
“It is not a problem that is going to be resolved overnight. It will need many parties working together to make the biggest amount of progress in the shortest period of time. We look forward to a clear pathway being established via the taskforce, and progressive change in legislation and governance driving ever higher standards.
“With all that in mind, we’re delighted to be part of the regional stakeholders group being launched by Alan Mak MP, working together to help improve water quality, and ensure a resilient water future for all.”
Update 8 February 2021
Southern Water’s Chief Executive Ian McAulay has responded to Alan's letter. Read the letter in full here. He’s agreed to a meeting to discuss further, and Alan plans to ask him and his team to engage with stakeholders from across our region as they set out plans to meet the new target of phasing out discharges & upgrading infrastructure.
26 January 2021
Local MP Alan Mak has pressured Southern Water to meet new targets set out by the Government to improve water quality and reduce stormwater discharges.
The Havant Constituency MP has been campaigning on the issue alongside senior backbench MP Philip Dunne, who introduced a Private Members Bill on the issue in the House of Commons. Mr Dunne, who is Chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee, praised Mr Mak for his efforts to get the Government to support the objectives of the Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill that aims to reduce the amount of stormwater discharges, including in areas such as Langstone Harbour and Chichester Harbour.
Now a new Storm Overflows Taskforce – made up of Defra, the Environment Agency, Ofwat, Consumer Council for Water, Blueprint for Water and Water UK – has agreed to set a long-term goal to eliminate harmful discharges from storm overflows.
Storm overflows are designed to be used during extreme weather to prevent sewers becoming overloaded with a combination of sewage and rainwater, releasing diluted wastewater rather than letting it back up into people’s homes. However, rising rainfall, leaks in pipes, insufficient rainwater storage capacity and other environmental factors has meant increasing use of these overflows, especially during the winter months.
Following the announcement that a new taskforce is being created, Mr Mak is writing to Southern Water’s Chief Executive asking how they plan to eliminate storm overflows, as well as meet the recommendations that have been made. Mr Mak is meeting Southern Water’s Chief Executive next month as well Environment Minister Rebecca Pow to lobby for further investment into our local infrastructure.
Mr Mak said: “As a strong supporter of the Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill’s objectives I am delighted that the Government is taking tough action to eliminate harmful discharges from storm overflows. We have a duty to protect our natural environment, especially areas such as Langstone Harbour and Chichester Harbour, which is why I will be continuing to keep up the pressure on Southern Water to meet the targets set by the Storm Overflows Taskforce.”
Mr Mak has been engaging with Southern Water for several years on the issue, including setting-up and chairing the Hayling Island Environment Forum which brings together local stakeholders, and focuses on tackling the issue specifically in Langstone Harbour and Chichester Harbour. That has already secured several improvements including the upgrading of the Beachbouy electronic notification system to better inform Harbour users of potential pollution events as well as securing additional testing of the bathing waters at Beachlands for the 2021 summer season.
Mr Dunne added: “I know Alan Mak MP has worked on this issue for several years with energy and commitment, and I am delighted he is supporting the objectives of my Bill. Alan is one of several committed colleagues working with me to get key proposals in the Bill adopted by water companies and others to help, over time, improve water quality locally too. There are no quick, easy or cheap solutions but Alan is working hard on this issue with local stakeholders, including through the Hayling Island Environment Forum that he created, and I commend him and all those working together in this Forum for their patience, hard work and long-standing commitment.”