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Raw Sewage and Storm Water: Discharge into Waterways

Volume 684: debated on Thursday 26 November 2020

What recent steps his Department has taken to reduce the discharge into waterways of raw sewage and storm water by water companies. (909306)

Water companies are committed over the next five years to a significant programme of improvements and to the monitoring and management of storm overflows, costing around £1.2 billion. However, there is more to do, and I met the chief executive officers of water companies in September and made it clear that sewage discharges must be reduced. To achieve that, I have set up a taskforce bringing together the Government, the water industry, regulators and environmental non-governmental organisations to develop actions to address the issue.

It is good to hear that a taskforce has been set up. In 2019, Yorkshire Water spent 616,643 hours discharging raw sewage into local rivers, which is the worst figure in England. It posted profits of more than £212 million in 2018-19—very much a case of private affluence and public effluence. We need to raise standards, and the Environmental Audit Committee Chair has proposed measures to do that. Will the Government be supporting the proposals of the right hon. Member for Ludlow (Philip Dunne)?

The hon. Lady touches on an issue to which the Department is giving a great deal of attention. As I said, I have recently met water companies to say that that is not good enough and that they need to improve. The Environment Agency carries out a lot of monitoring on the issue, but the situation is not good enough. The taskforce that I mentioned will be developing short and long-term actions to increase water company investment in tackling storm overflows. The Government are very supportive of the aims of the private Member’s Bill of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Philip Dunne); some measures in the Bill could be helpful in reducing storm overflows, and I have asked the taskforce to look at some of those measures. I thank the hon. Lady for her question.

Whiston in Rother Valley has repeatedly been flooded, most recently last year; and people are still out of their homes. In part, this has caused overflow of sewage into Whiston brook. Indeed, raw sewage went into Whiston brook 43 times last year. However, Rotherham Council has just granted planning permission for 450 homes off Worrygoose Lane, which is directly above the brook. That is going to have a huge impact on Whiston brook. Will my hon. Friend speak to Rotherham Council to convince it that building an extra 450 homes in Whiston is going to flood the brook and bring misery to so many people’s lives?

I thank my hon. Friend for his impassioned question. The national planning policy framework makes it very clear that new developments should be made safe and resilient without increasing the risk of floods elsewhere. The Environment Agency and Rotherham Council have been working together in partnership to find a solution to flood risk in the area. Early studies of the proposed Whiston flood alleviation scheme indicate that the scheme could better protect about 60 houses.