Agenda item

Motion for Time Limited Debate

Motion for Time Limited Debate – Kent water quality


Proposer: Mark Hood

Seconder: Mike Sole


Background information – supplied by the Green & Independent Group

The people of Kent are deeply concerned about water quality and the impact of regular wastewater discharges, including untreated sewage, into our streams, rivers and seas and the impacts on wildlife and on human health.

The UK has the dirtiest rivers in Europe. In Kent, poor water quality is responsible for eutrophication in our rivers and sites of Special Scientific Interest such as Stodmarsh. Southern Water reported around 42,000 hours of sewage spills into the Medway and its tributaries in 2020 alone and Environment Agency reports show large sections of Kent’s rivers as having poor or bad water quality which are preventing development in each of the districts in the catchment of Stodmarsh.

Releasing sewage into our rivers and seas has become a regular occurrence even in ‘normal’ rainfall events, new properties are overwhelming our inadequate existing drainage infrastructure and we are in a situation of cumulative overload on the sewerage and wastewater treatment systems.

Water providers should also be compelled to make it clear whether or not they are able to sustain future development. We should also ensure that surface water from our highways infrastructure is removed from the foul sewer network wherever possible.

Whilst there are long term commitments, there are no plans in place which will address the immediate unacceptable situation either locally by Southern Water or by national government.  The National Planning Policy Framework requires a robust approach to both water quality and pollution, and a recent legal opinion from the Environmental Law Foundation confirms the need to consider cumulative impacts. However, planning consultation documents show that it has not been the practice of LPA planners to ask water companies to report on the cumulative impacts of developments or the ability to supply those developments in any detail.



This Council resolves to:

  1. Recognise this Council’s obligation to protect Kent’s streams and rivers, including from the cumulative impacts of pollution, in line with its own policies and the National Planning Policy Framework.
  2. Recognise that there is clear evidence of deterioration of water quality due to cumulative impacts of multiple sewage discharge events or ‘sewerage overload’.
  3. Ensure that an evidence base is compiled that assesses the cumulative impact of sewage discharges, to inform the council on the sustainable level of future development.
  4. Seek to better understand the cumulative impact of wastewater discharges, including untreated sewage on our local rivers, wildlife and the health of our residents.
  5. Continue to take a lead on addressing the issue of water quality, working constructively with other agencies and local authorities.
  6. Invite the Chief Executive of Southern Water, plus senior representatives from the Environment Agency and Natural England, to attend a meeting to answer questions on the current levels of CSO and sewage plant discharge and to consider whether all future development in Kent should be Water Neutral.
  7. Ask Southern Water (from this date onwards) to clarify in its planning consultation responses for major developments, which treatment works will be managing the sewerage; whether it has the information available to assess the impact on the number or duration of sewage discharges into local rivers or seas and if it does have this information, to share it (noting that this can only be requested not required).
  8. Request that planning officers, from now onwards, include in all reports relating to major development a specific section on the impact on watercourses, including the potential for the development to affect sewage outflow into watercourses (i.e. cumulative impact), or to flag if this information is not fully available, so that this information (or the lack of it) is clearly and transparently set out.