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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Heated debate at Gedling Borough Council meeting sparked by MPs’ letter on raw sewage discharge motion

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Gedling councillors clashed over a letter send by local MPs in response to the proposed motion to stop raw sewage being discharged into waterways. 

The letter – written by MPs Tom Randall MP and Mark Spencer as a response to the raw sewage Council motion – was read out by Trent Valley councillor Michael Adams during the full council meeting held on November 17.  

Adams, who is leader of the Conservative Group, said that instead of putting forward a motion, the group decided to write the MPs directly and ask about their position on the matter.  

The response from Randall MP and Spencer MP stated: “We note that a motion is to be debated and voted upon during a meeting of Gedling Borough Council on Wednesday 17 November calling on us, as the Members of Parliament for our Borough, to publicly support the banning and elimination of the discharge of raw and untreated sewage into our waterways, rivers and oceans and for us to campaign and vote for a statutory requirement on water companies to reduce the discharge of raw and untreated sewage into our waterways, rivers and oceans. 

“Contrary to some misleading reports and Tweets, we have never voted to allow water companies to pump sewage into rivers. We have both voted in favour of a package of measures to reduce harms from storm overflows, including a new duty directly on water companies to produce comprehensive statutory Drainage and Sewerage Management plans, setting out how they will manage and develop their drainage and sewerage system over a minimum 25-year planning horizon, including how to storm overflows will be addressed through these plans.” 

The text also said that the Environment Act 2021, voted by both MPs is set to produce a statutory plan to reduce discharges and produce a report setting out the actions needed to stop discharges from storms overflows.  

Additionally, the Act creates three new duties on water agencies to publish data on storm overflows and to monitor the quality of waters and of sewage disposal works. 

Gedling Borough Council's Civic Centre
PICTURED: Gedling Borough Council Civic Centre in Arnold

Cllr Adams said he was glad that the MPs backed the council calls to improve waterways and that he as a representative of the group will fully support the council’s call. 

The motion – put forward by Labour Councillor Michael Boyle and backed by the full council – pushed for a statutory duty on all water companies to take “all reasonable steps to ensure untreated sewage is not discharged from storm overflows”. 

It also aims to eliminate the practice of discharging raw sewage into English rivers, waterways and oceans and not simply progressively reduced.  

The Council also resolved to engage with agencies including Severn Trent Water, the Environment Agency, Nottinghamshire County Council, and the UK Government to urge swift action to stop the discharge of raw/untreated sewage into waterways and rivers.  

The motion also called for local Members of Parliaments, Tom Randall, and Mark Spencer to publicly support the call for the elimination of sewage and discharges. 

But, the MPs’ letter sparked heated reactions from Labour councillors.  

Leader of Gedling Borough Council Cllr John Clarke said it was let down by the reaction from the MPs. 

He said: “I am particularly disappointed by the knee-jerk reaction of the chief whip Mark Spencer and our local MP Tom Randall who are straight putting their hands up instead of asking those simple questions as us laypeople are doing tonight.” 

“We need to do something together.”

Cllr Clarke said there had been an increase in use of local waterways for leisure pursuits like open swimming and they needed to be cleaned up.

“You wouldn’t have a bath in your toilet, would you. That’s what they are asking us to do.” he said.

Deputy leader Councillor Michael Payne seconded Councillor Clarke and said: “I really welcome the support from across the chamber. 

“It is interesting. We started this debate with Councillor Boyle saying that as a resident and constituent in the Gedling borough constituency that he has written to the MPs on this issue and is still waiting for a response. 

“But, nonetheless as Councillor Clarke says I am really happy that councillor Boyle and the motion here tonight have dragged the MPs kicking and screaming to finally realise they were absolutely in the wrong three weeks ago in the House of Commons. 

“There is no hiding from that. 

“You [Conservatives] will not pull the wall over the eyes of residents by pulling out a letter from two MPs and try to suggest the Conservative Government’s amendment to the Environment Bill does that the public expect. 

“What the public expect is the elimination of discharging raw and untreated sewage. 

“The reality is this government is mired in muck.” 

Commenting on the response from the MPs, Cllr Boyle added: “We need MPs to deliver on their words and work on this issue and strengthen the legislation and the fine regime.” 

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