After national coverage emerged last week that the Government have voted down amendments to the Environment Bill which, would have stopped water companies exploiting legal loopholes and treating rivers and the sea as open sewers, the local Liberal Democrats have spoken out.
The Taunton Deane economy is already being damaged significantly by lack of sufficient legislation owing to the ruling that because of high levels of phosphates in our local waters, many new construction projects can not commence costing money and jobs.
Cllr Dixie Darch, who leads on tackling climate change for the LibDem-run Somerset West and Taunton Council said, “Locally we have a specific problem of high phosphate levels caused partly by sewerage around the Somerset Levels and Moors Special Protection Area, as a result Natural England has imposed new conditions on all new residential planning applications which means most now cannot proceed. This is potentially calamitous for local small scale construction companies in particular, some of which are being forced to lay off staff.”.
Somerset West and Taunton Council is working to find a way around the phosphate issue and have appealed to the Government for urgent support in tackling the problem.
The news last week that the Government was not willing to stand up to water companies to start help addressing this problem comes on top of the news that the Government had already confirmed a relaxation of rules in September about treating discharges from sewage works because of the HGV driver shortage. Following the announcement by our Conservative MP, Rebecca Pow, local Liberal Democrats condemned the move as “recklessly taking risks with the environmental quality of our rivers”.
An Environment Agency Regulatory Position Statement made by the Government on 8th September, said treatment of discharges into rivers and watercourses may have “ceased” in view of “delays in the delivery of ferric sulphate in the coming weeks due to a shortage of HGV drivers”. The chemical is used to reduce the levels of phosphates, the build up of which is known to harm wildlife in rivers and water courses.
Gideon Amos, Parliamentary Spokesperson for Taunton Deane Liberal Democrats (pictured), has condemned the failure to stand up to water companies.
He said, “Given current concerns about polluting of water courses I was very surprised to learn of the Written Ministerial Statement in September confirming temporarily relaxation of rules on the treatment of sewerage and waste water for phosphates which is usually done with ferric sulphate. It was therefore no surprise last week that our own local MP, despite being a minister in the environment department, voted against a sensible amendment to make sure that we clean up our act once and for all as a country. I ask Rebecca Pow to do the right thing and use her final vote on this bill to ensure it represents real action of tackling pollution in our waters”.
The Bill returned for debate in the House of Lords on Tuesday 26th October.