Even the Waverley Web can hardly bear it but…Two Olympic Sized Swimming pools of the mucky brown stuff are being dumped into the Cranleigh Waters and that’s official.
Like us you probably wonder where the Cranleigh Waters actually is – well its in Elmbridge Road in West Cranleigh near the entrance to Rydinghurst Farm and no more than a few drum rolls from Ringo Starr’s former home at Rydinghurst.
Bet he’s glad he moved to pastures new – lock, stock and drum kit! YUK!
The poor old souls who live in the cottage a poo stick away from said ‘C Waters’ have only just returned to their home which was several feet under floodwater and poo in the 2013/14 storm – and they are in their 80’s and 90’s.
Now the Cranleigh Society – that brilliant band of Civic minded souls battling on behalf of the area are calling everyone to account and last week the woman now dubbed as Cranleigh’s “Superwoman” Chairman Liz Townsend and her technical guru Adrian Clarke met Waverley planning officers Matthew Evans, Chief of Planning (just about to jack the job in) and Elizabeth Sims – who is now Interim Head of Planning – now there’s a poisoned chalice if ever there was one!
What for? To thrash out Cranleigh Waters’ effluent problems and the implications these have on the area’s mountain of housing applications.
Said the Society: “We pointed out to Waverley Borough Council that it has been aware of the sewage issue since spring 2014, when Thames Water advised them that Cranleigh sewage works was “unlikely to be able to support anticipated demand“. We queried whether the new sites approved, and those currently in the planning system are actually deliverable within 5 years (as required under the NPPF) :
She said: “To be considered deliverable, sites should be available now, offer a suitable location for development now, and be achievable with a realistic prospect that housing will be delivered on the site within five years and in particular that development of the site is viable.” As the planning authority is aware that the sewage works is already “at capacity” and the technical expertise does not currently exist to manage effluent within the legal discharge limits, how can a 5 year time frame be considered realistic?
The planning officers stated that it was not their responsibility to establish whether the sewage infrastructure can cope, or the discharge permit into Cranleigh Waters is adequate. If Thames Water and/or the Environment Agency (EA) as Statutory Consultees have not specifically raised an objection, Waverley are only obliged to put a Grampian condition on planning consents and put the responsibility back on to the developer.
A “Grampian condition” is a planning condition attached to a decision notice that prevents the start of a development until off-site works have been completed on land not controlled by the applicant.
The Cranleigh Society say: We find this entirely unacceptable.
Waverley Web believes it is not only unacceptable it is downright irresponsible and the council’s planning authority should be called into question as to whom it serves – developers’ or the public’s safety.
The Society claims, the planners cannot, in light of the sewage problem, be certain that the housing is deliverable and they also have a legal obligation to “be confident that a development will not result in unacceptable risks from pollution.”
There is guidance for developments requiring planning permission and environmental permits available on the society’s website.
It says, we believe IT IS Waverley’s legal responsibility to ensure that the relevant environmental permits are in place prior to recommending an application for approval. Thames Water’s permit to discharge effluent into the Cranleigh Waters is out of date (last issued in 2009) and the EA have confirmed to us that at present it is “technically infeasible” to renew it. We pointed out to Waverley that the absence of a permit to discharge more effluent into Cranleigh Waters must be taken into account when considering planning applications. Thames Water are fined each time they exceed their permit level.
On the same day we also had a long and interesting discussion with the Environment Agency at a national level.
The main points from this discussion were:
It confirmed that (no surprise!) this issue is being replicated in other areas across the country where significant housing is being built without the technical ability for water companies to deal with the effluent being discharged from these developments.
Currently Thames Water are collaborating in a research programme to develop a technical process to meet the legal discharge levels. The EA anticipate that the results from this programme will be published next year. Should these trials find a way of dealing satisfactorily with the effluent, water companies will then have to submit plans and request funding for extensions to sewage treatment works to accommodate this new technology. The next funding round for Ofwat is 2019 (3 years away!).
The EA will not be in a position to update the 2009 Permit Limit for Cranleigh until after:
- The results of the water company trials are known and are successful.
- Funding is secured for the sewage work extension
- Cranleigh sewage works are extended.
It therefore seems pointless and even illegal for Waverley Borough Council to put in Grampian conditions when the outcome of the trials and subsequent funding round are unknown and they cannot reasonably be confident that they are approving planning applications that meet the required 5 year NPPF time frame.
We will be following up further points with the EA and are waiting to hear from Waverley regarding their legal responsibility to ensure that relevant environmental permits are in place, and whether in light of this information the EA are going to raise a fundamental objection to any planning applications.
Watch this space!! We have a feeling that the issue will be fudged!
We have sympathy with the EA in that its workforce has been drastically cut and it is under extreme pressure, however it should not continue to wave through new development that will further pollute our rivers and streams; from which we also abstract vital drinking water, when they are fully aware that the technology does not exist to meet discharge levels and they cannot guarantee that this technology will be developed in the near future.
Currently two Olympic sized swimming pools of effluent are discharged into the Cranleigh Waters which is flowing less and less during the year and stops flowing completely at times (last recorded by the Cranleigh Society in October 2015). This stream does not have the capacity to accept more effluent from 1,000s more houses in Cranleigh, Alfold and Dunsfold.
Until the EA has issued a new permit and Thames Water has been consulted and agreed that they can upgrade their works within a 5 year period to deal with the increase in sewage, Waverley Borough Council are failing in their duty to provide housing that is deliverable within a 5 year time frame and failing in their duty to ensure the correct environmental permits are in place.
The Cranleigh Civic Society is now following additional lines of enquiry and will update everyone on its website at as soon as there is more news. Needless to say WW will be watching too!
Join the Cranleigh Civic Society now and help it to continue “Speaking up for Cranleigh”
JOB DONE- THE SOCIETY IS FLUSHING THEM ALL OUT!