29 September 2023

Frustration in Staveley as meeting with CEO of United Utilities to discuss river Kent pollution delayed

Children's letters to Louise Beardmore, CEO of United Utilities, about cleaning up the river Kent

A meeting with United Utilities CEO, Louise Beardmore, to discuss sewage discharges in the river Kent and on to Staveley’s streets, has been rescheduled to 31 January 2024. Ms Beardmore was due to meet with representatives from Staveley-with-Ings Parish Council, the local community and the Clean River Kent Campaign (CRKC).

A petition, signed by 286 local residents, organisations and school children, had been prepared to present to Ms Beardmore at the start of the meeting. It calls for United Utilities to put an end to years of sewage being discharged onto the streets and into the precious local river Kent. This will now be sent to Ms. Beardmore instead.

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 2017, there have been 62 discharges of raw sewage from the United Utilities sewage system onto the streets of Staveley, most recently last week. This sits at odds with Ms. Beardmore’s stated wish, when she took on the role of CEO, for a ‘greener’ future for United Utilities.

The meeting had been organised to discuss the assurances from United Utilities that they will invest in the Staveley Wastewater Treatment Works by 2030 at the latest. While this should reduce the volume of sewage discharged into the river Kent, it is not known by how much. In addition, there’s no commitment from United Utilities to investment to tackle the continuing sewage discharges onto the streets.

Isobel Stoddart, CRKC Chair said, “It was very disappointing that the meeting was cancelled,
especially after all the effort that the local community had put into preparing for it. 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 make in the build up to the
delayed meeting in January – they need to prove that they mean what they say and come to
that meeting with costed plans with facts and figures showing how they intend to achieve a
Clean River and Clean Streets.

Mike Cambray, a local resident from Staveley 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. All Staveley is asking for is base level sanitation – whatever goes into the sewer pipes
from households and business stays in those pipes until it is correctly processed at the
Wastewater Treatment Works. Sewage on the streets is unacceptable and the strength of
feeling about the issue runs high in Staveley, as demonstrated by the numerous and heartfelt
petition comments submitted.”