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Water Quality is failing Chichester Harbour (February 2021)

The issue of water quality and waste-water discharge into the highly protected and sensitive estuarine waters of Chichester Harbour has long been apparent and is deteriorating. With the potential combined impact of climate change, and population increase, the situation is becoming more urgent.

The forthcoming Chichester District Local Plan proposes an additional 12,000+ houses for the area, in the context of insufficient current waste-water treatment capacity or adequate assurance from Southern Water that this will be provided.

In the past decade, despite sanctions by the regulators, the issue of storm discharges has not been resolved, and we are not seeing signs of progress.

The Local Planning Authority has met recently with Southern Water and the local MP, Gillian Keegan. Feedback is that the attitude of Southern Water remains that they will continue to connect up new developments to the current infrastructure (which they are mandated to do) and continue to discharge into the Harbour as authorised under their existing licences. The Environment Agency, as the regulatory body are under-resourced to monitor and enforce effectively.

In the past year, Southern Water discharged into the Harbour for 117 days during a 12 month period (source: Chichester Harbour Conservancy). Southern Water’s Beachbuoy notification system provides real-time discharge information. As of today (4th February), Southern Water has been storm discharging into Chichester Harbour continuously for 8 consecutive days.

The Chichester Harbour Trust, together with local action and community groups, has made representations to the regulators, Ofwat, the Environment Agency, and our local MPs. The responses that we received did not seem to reflect the urgency of the situation or provide sufficient reassurance that Southern Water is being effectively regulated. We urge the Minister, Rebecca Pow, to consider using special administration measures to force Southern Water to address storm discharges effectively.

Photo courtesy of Rick Gatley, with thanks.

The measures that need to be taken to rectify the current situation and to increase the capacity for new housing developments will take some years to build. Chichester Harbour Trust argues that this renders the implementation of the local plan in its current form impossible until Southern Water are able to provide the capacity. The need for a moratorium on additional development is therefore becoming ever more important and more urgent.

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