Plans for hundreds of homes deferred over sewage pollution fears

Planning approval for around 250 homes in East Sussex has been deferred due to concerns over water pollution from sewage overflows.

Wealden District Council’s planning committee has called on Southern Water to provide ‘full and satisfactory’ reports on how new housing will impact the sewage system, saying it will defer the majority of planning applications it has received until this is provided. This includes 205 new homes proposed in East Hoathly, 28 in Horsebridge and 24 in Horam.

Wealden District Council's planning committee chair Susan Steadman said: “Southern Water has not addressed our concerns nor fully answered our questions in relation to these three, major applications.” Southern Water was responsible for spilling raw sewage into Wealden’s waterways for over 17,000 hours in 2021, according to The Rivers Trust.

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At a meeting on July 20 the council called on the water company  to provide further information as part of a raft of measures passed relating to the environmental impact of sewage overflows. 

The move from Wealden council also came after DEFRA’s announcement in July of a new nutrient mitigations scheme that would see a legal duty placed upon water companies in England to upgrade their wastewater treatment works by 2030 in areas suffering with high levels of nutrient pollution. This measure is set to be introduced by a government amendment to the Levelling Up & Regeneration Bill, which is currently passing through the House of Commons. 

Concerns were raised within Sussex however, that the need to upgrade sewage systems would only apply to Chichester district as the only ‘nutrient neutrality area’ in the historic county, leaving questions unanswered about discharge of untreated or partially-treated sewage outside of the area. Countryside charity CPRE Sussex suggested more clarification was needed.

READ MORE: Habitats Regulations have been ‘safety net’ for rivers, says Natural England official


Chair of Wealden DC, Ann Newton, called on Southern Water to ‘act with alacrity’. 

She said: “Southern Water has clearly not taken on board the feeling of the council, representing residents in Wealden.

“Our cross-party proposal made it quite clear, and I call upon the water authority to act with alacrity. We will not simply gloss over vital issues such as sewage flooding”

A spokesperson for Southern Water said: “We are aware of this motion, and are reviewing its requirements in line with our statutory duties. We continue to work closely with all stakeholders regarding this issue."

The council is set to meet with Southern Water in late September.