Torbay’s MP Kevin Foster has backed the next stage of the government’s plan to tackle sewage pollution by enshrining a target to improve sewage overflows into law.
In August 2022 the government set out its Storm Overflows plan which requires the largest infrastructure programme in water company history to tackle sewage overflows – an estimated £56bn. The plan prioritises investments in priority sites including protected habitats and bathing waters. In April, £1.6 billion investment was brought forward to speed up vital water infrastructure projects, cutting thousands of overflow spills each year.
Ministers also reconfirmed they will be lifting the cap on civil penalties for water and sewerage companies, raising them up to unlimited penalties so that polluters pay for their impact on the environment, with funds now being reinvested into further improving rivers and water bodies. Today’s announcement will place the improvement targets in the Storm Overflows Reduction Plan on a statutory footing, making them legally binding.
Secretary of State Therese Coffey MP said: “It was a Conservative government that will deliver 100 per cent monitoring of storm overflows. We’ve brought forward stronger regulations, tougher enforcement and the largest water infrastructure programme in history – an expected £56 billion investment – and we will make fines unlimited so that the polluter always pays.”
The Environment Secretary has written to water companies requiring a plan on every overflow on her desk by the end of June. This builds on work to introduce mandatory monitoring, which is up from just 7% in 2010 to 100% by the end of this year. Thanks to this monitoring, regulators are undertaking the largest investigation into water companies in their history related to illegal sewage dumping, building on record fines of £141m secured since 2015.
Yesterday the Labour Party tabled legislation which directly replicates existing government policy, including:
- Bringing in monitoring, which will already be complete by the end of the year;
- Requiring a plan to be published, which the government already set out last year;
- Setting legal targets, which the government has already committed to do; and
- Introducing automatic fines, which reduces the fine available to regulators, rather than increasing them to unlimited as the government will do.
Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats have committed to introduce a tax on water companies, which would take over 500 years to fund their sewage overflow plans.
Kevin Foster MP said: “This new legislation is welcome and reinforces the commitment to tackling a problem which for too many years was simply ignored. Torbay’s bathing waters have excellent water, with legal standards tighter now than when I was first elected in 2015.”
He added: “I would also encourage residents to check the information on the Tor Bay Harbour Authority website about water quality, as often images shared of the sea on social media sites are actually of natural occurrences, like marine algae and seaweed.”
You can find the relevant pages of the Tor Bay Harbour Authority website by following this link:
For further comment contact Kevin Foster on 01803 214 989.