Demand for heavier fines on water companies dumping sewage in the sea

Leader of Canterbury City Council, Cllr Alan Baldock, and Cabinet Member for Coastal Towns, Cllr Chris Cornell, holding the letter to Rishi Sunak
Leader of Canterbury City Council, Cllr Alan Baldock, and Cabinet Member for Coastal Towns, Cllr Chris Cornell, holding the letter to the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak

It is time to hit water company shareholders in their pockets with much heavier fines for dumping sewage in our seas.

That’s the message from the Leader of the Council today (Tuesday) in a hard-hitting letter to the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak this week.

Cllr Alan Baldock also called on the government to create a Minister for Coastal Communities, increase resources for those charged with policing our seas, to strengthen the regulations that reduce single-use plastics at source and to create an ocean recovery strategy.

The move comes after Canterbury City Council became the 15th council across the country to sign the Local Government Association’s Motion for the Ocean and commit itself to embedding marine ecology at the heart of its strategic decision making following a meeting of Full Council in July.

In his letter, Cllr Baldock says: “The sea literally and metaphorically puts food on the table for hundreds of our residents and we believe conserving and improving its biodiversity is essential to the economic and environmental future of our coastal towns of Herne Bay and Whitstable.

“This weekend will see thousands of our residents congregate on the beach at Whitstable as part of SOS Whitstable’s protest against pollution along our coast.

“The cleanliness of our waters lies at the heart of many of our residents’ mental and physical wellbeing all year round.

“The safety of our waters is something they care about passionately and something our council is doing everything in its power to protect.”

The letter, which welcomes the Environment Agency’s successful prosecution of Southern Water in 2021, also demands:

  • legally-binding targets for water companies to substantially reduce the use of combined sewage overflows (CSOs) at pace with the burden of any new investment in infrastructure carried by shareholders first
  • more resources to increase enforcement, water quality and public trust in the system
  • that we follow the French government in ensuring microfibre catching filters are fitted on all new washing machines
  • that an ocean recovery strategy works to proactively improve the quality of our marine ecosystems and consider coastal management, marine conservation and fisheries holistically rather than as competing interests
  • a minister devoted to serving the one in five English residents living in a coastal community

Cllr Baldock continues: “We would very much welcome the opportunity to host members of the Cabinet to explore these issues further with our fishing community, seabathing groups and coastal environment groups.”

SOS Whitstable will be joined by a number of special guests for its protest this Saturday (23 September) which takes place at 3pm on Tankerton Slopes.

Protesters are being advised to meet at 2.45pm at the white lifeguard hut at the bottom of the slopes in line with the Marine Hotel.

Cllr Chris Cornell, Cabinet Member for Coastal Towns, said: “The fact thousands will gather on Tankerton Beach as part of the SOS Whitstable protest this weekend proves the sea matters.

“That is why its biodiversity should be at the heart of how we manage our coastline, build homes and take our decisions.

“We stand side by side with residents wanting national change to a broken system.”

Published: 19 September 2023

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