Agenda item



Councillor Smith asked the following question:


Events of the last few months have demonstrated that Southern Water is currently unable to provide a reliable supply of drinking water to homes and businesses across Thanet.


Recent incidents have included multiple water ‘outages’ with inadequate compensation and scant regard for the needs of their most vulnerable customers. 


Does the Leader agree with me that it is irresponsible for TDC to continue to approve any further large housing developments in the District until Southern Water has completed upgrading its infrastructure and is able to demonstrate a water supply that is fit for purpose?


The Leader of Council responded as follows:


The Local Plan considers the issue of water supply, throughout its development and delivery by engaging with the relevant utility companies, specifically including Southern Water.


This engagement provided Southern Water with a strategic opportunity to consider the impact of housing growth on water supply. In addition, the water providers produced and published regional and local Water Resources Management Plans, which were required to take into account the impacts of development proposals contained within District Councils Local Plans.


Southern Water were also consulted about all planning applications involving new dwellings and were able to submit comments based upon the impact on both water supply and drainage. The council was required to consider any representations made in determining planning applications. The council would not be able to defend a decision to refuse planning consent on the grounds of water supply issues, if the statutory consultees were advising that the water supply infrastructure was adequate in that location.


The Council understood that the recent outages in Thanet had been the result of two separate problems with infrastructure at the Rumfields Road Water Booster Station in Broadstairs. Although these had caused considerable disruption and inconvenience, they were not necessarily indicators of a fundamental water supply issue. The Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee had decided to invite Southern Water to attend its meeting on 14 March to consider these outages.


The management and maintenance of the water supply network was primarily a matter for the service provider, Southern Water. The council could however seek assurance from Southern Water that they had the necessary evidence to demonstrate an adequate water supply and in addition to the invitation from the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, the Council would be doing this as part of the update of the Council’s Local Plan.


Councillor Smith further asked whether in the context of climate and ecological emergency, could Thanet District council not take a lead in these circumstances as there was a need for more sustainable decisions to be made regarding future housing development and what other policies the council could come up with to protect the natural environment.


The Leader of Council responded and said that it was up to government to force water providers to step up to the challenge for providing appropriate water supply infrastructure. Government was now extending fines to £250 million for water suppliers who were not complying with regulations.