The Chair invited Ms. Elizabeth Wickenden to speak under Public Speaking Procedure Rules. Ms. Wickenden made the following comments:
· Ms. Wickenden came back to Thanet and had been living in the Wimpey Estate since 2016, having lived in Broadstairs before;
· She had witnessed thirteen incidents of water supply interruptions in the estate in December 2022;
· Since January 2023, there had been a further five incidents;
· Burst water pipes also affected traffic flow in affected areas;
· The majority of residents affected had not been compensated by Southern Water for the inconveniences they had experienced;
· Some of the affected residents had received some compensation whilst some who had not been affected by the water supply interruptions had also been compensated;
· Ms. Wickenden asked the Overview & Scrutiny panel to hold Southern Water to account for these multiple water supply interruptions that occurred between December 2022 and January 2023;
· She further requested the Panel to ask Southern Water the question: “What was Southern Water’s strategic plan for infrastructure development in the district.”
The Chair then asked Councillor Garner to speak under Council Procedure Rule 20.1. Councillor Garner made the following points:
· Most Members had been contacted by the affected residents;
· The compensation process had been handled badly for the December incidents;
· Southern Water should meet with the community in a public meeting and answer for these water supply interruption incidents;
· The major housing development being planned would create additional problems related to the water supply interruptions.
The Chair then opened the discussion to Panel members who made the following comments:
· One member advised the meeting that Southern Water had indicated that they were willing to attend the March Overview and Scrutiny Panel meeting to discuss this matter with Members;
· They further said that Southern Water needed to review their short term and long term plans to water supply infrastructure in the district;
· Judging by the errors in compensation payment made to date, it appeared as though Southern Water did not have a reliable data base for its customers that it could use to determine those residents affected by the water supply interruptions;
· The Member suggested that Southern Water were aware that the Wimpey Estate had inadequate water supply infrastructure;
· Another Member said that it was important for Members to understand how Southern Water was handling the compensation process and what were their long term plans regarding infrastructure;
· Another Member said that the Leader of Council advised Members on the Planning Committee to request for Southern Water input when considering new housing development planning applications as part of determining new applications. This would be a useful approach;
· By using this approach routinely this would assist the Planning Committee to gather information on water supply infrastructure in the district;
· One Member said that the incidents of burst pipes in a fairly new estate could be a reflection of poor planning;
· They further said that they had not come across housing development planning application with water harvesting nor porous roads;
· With the planned 25% housing development by 2030, it was important to change the council’s planning approach to consider infrastructure development for water supply;
· Another Member said that consideration should be given to infrastructure in general when making decisions on housing development;
· Members supported the idea of a public community meeting being arranged that would be attended by Southern Water representatives. They further said that such a meeting should not be used for political purposes;
· A Member asked whether any Council representatives ever spoke to Southern Water each time such an incident occurred;
· Another Member asked whether the Panel could engage Southern Water in discussions about specific compensation for individual residents;
· Members also suggested that broad subject areas be identified ahead of the meeting with Southern Water in order for Southern Water to prepare adequately for the meeting.
Councillor Bayford advised the Panel that it might be helpful if they came up with a set of key questions which would enable Southern Water to prepare for the meeting with the Panel.
Chris Blundell and Jennifer Phillips, Principal Litigation Solicitor responded to Member comments and questions as follows:
· There was a protocol, that was followed by Thanet District Council in response to water supply interruptions;
· However Southern Water were not engaging fully with the protocol;
· Southern Water was a private company which was regulated by its sector’s regulations that id to follow;
· The Council could only ask and try to engage Southern Water but could not compel Southern Water to act;
· If Southern Water came to the table for the compensation discussion, it would only be to discuss in general rather than be specific about individual residents compensation cases;
· The Council could not enforce a decision to make payments.
The Chair invited Members to forward questions to him ahead of the meeting with Southern Water.
Councillor Leys proposed, Councillor Huxley seconded and Members UNANIMOUSLY agreed that Southern Water representatives be invited to the Panel meeting on 14 March 2023 to discuss the issue regarding the multiple water supply interruptions that had affected some parts of the district, particularly between December 2022 and January 2023.