By Brian Pain
BRIDGE REPLACEMENT UPDATE
It looks highly likely that the temporary creek crossing will remain on hire for at least two more years as the process of design, tender and construction of the replacement bridge grinds on.
While we are pleased that Paul Carter, the previous Leader of the KCC, has been as good as his word and continues to strongly promote the project, we are somewhat more sceptical about the benefit of having local MP Helen Whatley involved. Her poodle-like fealty to her political masters, leads rise to the suspicion that she will do little more than use these meetings as a photo-op to promote her career rather than robustly lobby her parliamentary ministers and colleagues to force Peel Ports to engage in the project and accept their fair financial and legal responsibilities. (We weren’t impressed with her effectiveness in aiding the opposition to the dreadful Cleve Hill Solar Factory).
In the meeting held at the end of November, she reported that the Maritime Minister, Richard Courts MP, had not received a reply to his letter to Peel Ports the private company with responsibility for the structure and navigation of Faversham Creek. She also said she had met Kelly Tolhurst the previous minister who had agreed to raise it with Peel Ports unfortunately she was in the job for less than seven months and it can only be assumed that she didn’t get around to it.
As an interesting aside, Tolhurst had succeeded Nusrat Ghani MP as Maritime Minister. Ghani alongside as taking her salary as an MP has recently taken a post with a leading maritime consortium which successfully bid for a £33million grant she had lobbied a fellow minister for whilst serving in government. The job pays £60,000 per annum for a back-breaking seven hours a month work.
Inevitably new problems are arising, the latest being whether the abutments are capable of bearing the weight of the new bridge. However, work is still progressing, and we heartily hope that by the middle of 2022 we have a working opening bridge. We welcome the commitment being shown to the project by the Kent County Council and Faversham Town Council as well as other organisations such as the Faversham Creek Trust and the Faversham and Oare Heritage Harbour Group.
The importance of achieving the goal of a new opening bridge on Faversham Creek cannot be overstated if we are to have an upper basin supporting lively maritime activity, benefiting the whole Town and not just a few property developers (see Eye’s 10 and 11).
The controversial planning application for housing on Ordnance Wharf was withdrawn by the developers in November after receiving over 160 objections from many individuals, as well as, among other organisations, Shepherd Neame, Historic England, the Faversham Society and Environmental Health.
Previous applications in 2012 and 2012 were also withdrawn and the first in 2003 was dismissed on appeal.
It is a regrettable fact that developers can continue resubmitting essentially similar applications for a site if planning permission is not granted but those objecting have no recourse to appeal if planning permission is granted (apart from a ruinously expensive Judicial Review).
The unfortunate consequence of this near 20-year attempt to build houses on this highly unsuitable site is that the fabric of the wharf has been left to deteriorate. Consequently, a few of the letters of support for the latest application (as well as the recent report in our local rag the Faversham News), claim that the developer should be given permission to build the houses on Ordnance Wharf because the derelict site is an eyesore. Even though the developer/owner was and is responsible for the current dereliction.
Hopefully, with our emerging Local Plan, we can reach a holistic scheme for the basin with much greater consideration given to each of the constituent sites so that something much more imaginative and visionary scheme for this unique part of Faversham evolves. It would be a tragedy if all we were given in the basin were a few inappropriate and expensive houses and a mound of mud.
CREEK POLLUTION - We were only following Ordures
In September last year, we reported in Faversham Eye 5 on the growing pollution occurring in Faversham Creek, which was almost certainly the result of discharge from the five licensed Combined Sewer Outflows (CSO) operated by Southern Water situated at several places along the upper parts of the Creek.
The leading article on the front page of the Faversham News of the 27th June of that year reported that “the brown substance on the surface after heavy rainfall leads to speculation over its origin.”
Later that year, the outflow at the sewage works discharged a mixture of surface water and sewage for a continuous period of over 90 hours. We feared at the time that matters would only get worse in the future due to more frequent heavy downpours and significant extra housing development.
Incoming tide rising from the sewage works - taken on 11th November, 2020
It was always difficult to extract information from Southern Water about these discharges especially as the CSO at the sewage works is the only outflow monitored. This has been made even more difficult recently due to Covid-19.
We have in the past month, however, received a reply from Southern Water Services Limited after an Environmental Information Regulations request. It is only fair to say that our request was only partially successful.
“Under the Freedom of Information Act could you please provide the following information:
1. The year in which Faversham Sewage Works was built and the residential capacity which this original sewage network was designed to support?
2. Whether any significant expansion works have been completed to date, and if any are planned. If any have been completed, or are planned, when will/was this completed and how has this changed the capacity of the sewage works in terms of the number of standard residential households it is able to support?
3. Please confirm the number of residential properties the Faversham Sewage network is expected to be supporting by the end of 2021 – including both current properties on the network and new properties that Southern Water has agreed to support.
Additionally, under the Environmental Information Regulations Act, I would like to request the following:
4. Any records of discharges into Faversham Creek over the past 5 years which were categorised as a Category 3 pollution incident?
5. Monthly settled storm discharge classifications (unsatisfactory, substandard, satisfactory) recorded since Southern Water started to record this data in accordance with the National Environment Programme.”
The replies were as follows:
1. Southern Water does not hold the information as to when the current sewage works were built or to what capacity of households they were built for. The earliest records we have for the Waste Water Treatment works within the Faversham area are from May 1991 which were when the works were transferred to Southern Water’s predecessor. Upon further investigation, there are reports that the rectangular bio-filters onsite were actually constructed between 1972 and 1975 but we do not know an exact completion date for the works themselves.
2. From looking back at our records to 1991, there were significant refurbishments in 2011 and 2012 of various equipment at the site including the rectangular bio-filters, which make up a significant proportion of biological treatment. The vast majority of the work done is not building additional capacity, generally work involves replacement of existing equipment with more modern or efficient electrical/mechanical equipment.
3. The current number of properties that the Faversham Waste Water Treatment Works serve is 11,439 properties of varying types listed as residential, including from January this year (2020) and to December next year (2021) we have an additional 269 properties forecast to connect based on available documents from the council such as the Local Plan and SHLAA documents.
4. There have been three incidents recorded in the past 5 years by Southern Water which were categorised as a category 3*pollution into Faversham Creek and reported to the Environment Agency (EA). These were as follows:
They were all at the Faversham Waste Water Works.
*Category 3 pollution has an impact on the local environment but regarded as minor but otherwise undefined.
5. Storm overflow classification, which originates from 2018 EA guidance and has not yet been implemented, is not associated with EA’s National Environmental Programme (NEP) and is not updated on a monthly basis. As such, we do not hold this information.
What this roughly translated means is:
1. Southern Water don’t know when their Sewage works was built or what its maximum treatment capacity is.
2. Apart from upgrades of equipment, Southern has not made any attempt to increase its capacity despite a huge growth in the population of Faversham since 1991 up to this time, let alone the further Increases planned over the next ten years.
3. In Southern Water are forecasting only 269 new properties connecting to the sewage works for the full two years of 2020 and 2021. This seriously underestimates the scale of new houses built or being built over this period. We will give the exact numbers in our follow up article in the next Eye.
4. There has been serious pollution of the creek in recent years but there is no monitoring or recording of the regular incidents which occur at the combined sewage outflows after heavy rainfall.
Surely the actual sewage treatment capacity available in Faversham needs to be carefully considered before granting planning permission for nearly another 4,000 houses?