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Chichester Harbour Trust statement on the recent Southern Water sentencing

The Chichester Harbour Trust notes the judgement made against Southern Water last week involving a fine of £90 million for persistently breaching environmental regulations during the period 2010-15.

The illegal disposal of untreated sewage waste into coastal waters over a period of many years has done incalculable damage to the region and to the ecology of Chichester Harbour, a fragile intertidal environment, in particular.

Regrettably, we observe that the damage to Chichester Harbour continues. Water quality continues to deteriorate due principally to excess nitrates and storm discharges, compounded by over-development of the surrounding area. Natural England produced a devastating report on the state of Chichester Harbour SSSI earlier this year. Last year alone Southern Water pumped untreated waste water (sewage) into the Harbour on 117 days. Southern Water continue to connect up major new housing developments in the District to the existing sewage system, for which it is quite clear they do not have the capacity - and this is before the revised Chichester District Local Plan which calls for an additional 12,500 homes to be built in the area over the next 15 years. Southern water doesn’t appear to have a coherent plan to address the problem.

Despite many meetings involving Chichester District Council, our local MP Gillian Keegan, the Environment Agency, Ofwat, and Natural England, there is a lack of local leadership in coming forward with solutions to prevent what is an emerging environmental catastrophe. The constraints of existing regulatory rules and practice must be overcome in order to effectively and proactively confront these urgent issues. Our leaders should be out there proposing new regulation, confronting Government Ministers - and the EA and Natural England should be out there battling to save the Harbour with whose protection they are charged.

We call on our local democratically elected leaders and representatives to step up, show dynamic leadership and serve their communities and ecosystems before it is too late.

Image showing microalgal mats covering intertidal habitats (credit Chichester Harbour Trust)

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