24 January 2024

United Utilities CEO comes to Staveley to discuss action to reduce sewage discharges on streets and into river Kent

A view of the River Kent amid rocks and trees, using a slow shutter speed on the camera so that the water is blurred.

The meeting with representatives from Staveley with Ings Parish Council, the local community, and the Clean River Kent Campaign (CRKC), will take place on 31 January 2024 in Staveley Village Hall, 12.30-6.00pm.

It was originally scheduled for 30 September 2023, but was postponed by United Utilities to allow additional time to work up their plans. Local people call on United Utilities to put an end to years of sewage being discharged onto the village streets and into the precious local river Kent.

During 2022, United Utilities discharged untreated sewage from the Staveley Wastewater Treatment Works into the river Kent for a total of 4.064 hours – the equivalent of 169 continuous days and nights. Since 2015, there had been 66 discharges of raw sewage from the United Utilities sewage system onto the streets of Staveley up to the end of 2023.

The meeting has been organised to hear the proposals from United Utilities about the proposed plans for Staveley Wastewater Treatment Works. They have committed to the planned improvements being completed by 2030 at the latest. This should reduce the volume of sewage discharged into the river Kent, although, until further details are available, it is not known by how much.

The community welcomes this long-awaited improvement. But, after investigating the problems through a citizen science programme led by the Parish Council and the Clean River Kent Campaign, believes that an integrated solution is required to tackle the persistent sewage discharges onto the village streets as well as discharges into the river.

Staveley has a combined sewerage system, with freshwater entering the system in addition to foul sewage. This increases the pressure on the system overall.

United Utilities with their partners, the Environment Agency and Westmorland & Furness Council, have been investigating the sources of water ingress, and how this might be reduced. United Utilities say that they wish to work in partnership, and we trust that they will share their calculations and modelling with us.

This problem has dragged on for years. We will press for a funded, timetabled plan to be agreed by December 2024 at the latest.

CRKC will also meet with UU CEO, Louise Beardmore, to discuss how United Utilities will reduce sewage discharges and improve the health of the river Kent, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), as it flows through the upper Kent Valley and down to the sea.

Isobel Stoddart, CRKC Chair said, “United Utilities say that they want to work in partnership with local communities to deliver solutions to decades of underinvestment in our sewage systems. However, after years of inaction from United Utilities, the proof will be in the commitments they now make – they need to prove that they mean what they say and come to the meeting with costed plans with facts and figures showing how they intend to achieve a Clean River and Clean Streets.”

Councillor Arthur Capstick from the Staveley with Ings Parish Council, explained, “The issue of sewage on the streets has been going on for years in this village – so far there has been insufficient action to deal with it. Residents have organised several projects which have enabled us to better understand the underlying problems. We now look forward to a new approach to joint working which recognises the contributions of the community. We believe that this could provide a template of good practice for other similar communities.”