Letter to James Wild MP on sewage releases into rivers

Following the rejection of the Duke of Wellington’s amendment to the Environment Bill that would have done more to curb rampant releases of sewage into rivers by water companies, the Lords are due to send revised amendments back to the House of Commons for a vote later this week. I’ve written to our local MP, James Wild, asking him to re-consider his previous vote against the amendment.

Dear Mr Wild,

In January of this year, you said “I have been campaigning to reduce the extent of sewage being released into rivers which has happened hundreds of times in North West Norfolk.”

So it was disappointing that last week you followed so many of your colleagues in voting down the Duke of Wellington’s amendment to the Environment Bill, which would have contributed to exactly the reduction you say you have campaigned for.

This amendment has been characterised, in a huge oversimplification, as a “complete ban” by one of your colleagues, when the amendment sought to place a new duty on sewerage undertakers in England and Wales to make improvements to their sewerage systems and demonstrate progressive reductions in the harm caused by discharges of untreated sewage. Again, what you say you have campaigned for.

The amendment was rejected on the basis of an estimated cost of up to £650bn for remediation of Victorian sewerage systems. This is scaremongering. Many of the people who have been so disappointed by the recent vote are not naïve enough to believe that this amendment magically stops sewage being released into rivers overnight – but it does begin to better hold water companies to account. It seems plain that water companies have chronically underinvested in sewerage infrastructure for years, while they have passed billions in dividends to shareholders.

We farm at Burnham Deepdale and have been directly exposed to issues caused by high rainfall and sewage emissions, with sewage escaping the drains outside our farm (which is my home), and into the salt marsh and SSSI at Brancaster Staithe. Your involvement in finding a resolution to this earlier this year was appreciated. I also note your involvement in the campaign to protect Norfolk’s chalk streams and the work you have done including in the Public Accounts Committee to press the Environment Agency and Defra on the state of chalk streams; so it is doubly confusing that you should fail to support an amendment that appears to support your aims.

Another of your colleagues has recently dismissed widespread anger at this vote as the rantings of Twitter keyboard warriors – a lot of people in the farming community and across the political spectrum are frustrated by this vote, as I am sure you are aware.

We are playing our part in addressing some of the issues related to high rainfall by implementing several Natural Flood Management features at Deepdale Farm, from restoring hedgerows to using winter cover crops, ponds and other features designed to slow and hold water. I sincerely hope you will consider continuing to play your part by joining your colleagues including Greg Clark, Esther McVey, David Davis, Philip Dunne, chairman of the environmental audit committee Sir Bernard Jenkin and Sir Peter Bottomley, and vote in support of the Duke of Wellington’s revised amendment when it returns to the House of Commons later this week.

Yours sincerely

Nathan

(Address provided)

27 October

James Wild MP replied as follows:

Dear Mr Nelson

Thanks for your email.

This is an important subject and one which I have been involved in since I was elected which your email acknowledges.

Given the interest this issue generated I’ve posted on my website explaining what we voted for, issues with the Duke of Wellington’s amendment, and the discussions I had with the Environment Secretary following the vote which along with other MPs voice led to the strengthening of the measures – i’ll be joining Philip Dunne and others backing that when it comes to the House of Commons. Hopefully you’ll agree it will hold water companies more to account.

My post is available here https://www.jameswild.org.uk/news/measures-environment-bill-tackle-storm-overflows

It is encouraging to hear about the projects you are undertaking at Deepdale to help tackle the high rainfall issues working with nature.

Best wishes,

James

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