SEWAGE overflows are a result of Victorian plumbing, where pipes for wastewater and surface water were combined.
This means when it rains heavily, overflows are a safety valve stopping the water from backing up into people’s homes.
Sadly, the capacity of the sewage network as it exists today means that discharges cannot be eliminated overnight. What we need is rapid, large-scale investment in improving the capacity of the network, and I have made very clear in recent meetings with South West Water that this must be their top priority for urgent investment locally.
I want to be clear that the Environment Act does not and never did allow raw sewage to be dumped, and it is simply wrong to say that any MP voted for this. Instead, the Act recognises that raw sewage is already regrettably being dumped, and sets out a range of measures to tackle the problem.
SWW now have plans in place to cut sewage discharges by almost 60% by next year, which is a significant first step.
Nevertheless, the goal must remain cutting discharges to zero as soon as the infrastructure allows, with significant fines being issued in the meantime.
We need to be smarter about the impact new development has on the sewage network, which is why I support new legal duties on developers to demonstrate that new housing will not put unmanageable pressure on the network.
Let me be clear, the use of sewage overflows is completely unacceptable. If it were possible, I would have them turned off now, but that would not be possible.
We should be under no illusion that eradicating the issue is a huge undertaking but not one that I, and other MP’s, are shying away from. What I have done is voted for the first plans ever to tackle them.
I have also reiterated my commitment to tackling sewage problems by supporting the UK Infrastructure Bank Bill that returned to the House of Commons this week.
The Infrastructure Bank is publicly owned, and focuses on providing finances for infrastructure projects that help support regional and local economic growth in the UK. The Bill stipulates that water companies wishing to receive investment from the bank for infrastructure projects, must have a costed and time limited plan demonstrating they are committed to preventing sewage discharges.
Not only is the government increasing the ability to fine water companies in the short-term, but it is also ensuring that money invested in improving water infrastructure is going to companies that are complying with the Environment Act’s targets.
One piece of infrastructure that is vitally important as the digital world continues to evolve is broadband. Full-fibre superfast broadband is being delivered to more areas across Devon, with recent upgrades having taken place in Powderham, Bishopsteignton, and Luscombe; and with future upgrades coming in Dawlish and Stover. Connectivity in the west country is crucial.
Finally, this week marks the three-year anniversary of leaving the EU, allowing us to regain control of our laws, end annual payments for access to the Single Market and the embrace of ‘ever closer union’.
I would be the first to agree that this government has yet to deliver on the promised Brexit dividend – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there for the taking. And it doesn’t mean we haven’t seen any wins – we have!
This week, as a member of the Treasury Committee, I was able to question two of the leading architects of the UK’s new financial regulations, the ‘Edinburgh reforms’.
These new reforms introduced by the government have freed up money for investment by reforming restrictive EU rules, and allowing the UK to strike its own balance on financial regulation in order to enhance competition.