Groups meet to discuss Southern Water and Langstone Harbour pollution

A SUMMIT of 16 organisations has been held over concerns about poor conditions at Langstone Harbour.

Thursday, 27th May 2021, 4:55 am
Updated Thursday, 27th May 2021, 7:15 am
Langstone Harbour. Picutre: Vicky Stovell.

The Save Our Harbours meeting was joined by 16 organisations, including Southern Water and looked at both Langstone and Chichester harbours.

It comes after years of complaints about the environment in both locations.

Those who took part agreed they must work together to try and make changes – although campaigners have dismissed the move as a ‘talking shop’.

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Ian McAulay, chief executive at Southern Water, said: ‘We need to understand what the biggest and quickest wins are and where we can achieve the greatest impact from our shared efforts and collective investment. We must take action now, commit to working in an open, honest and supportive way and demonstrating progress.

‘Only a collective effort will address the challenge we face.

‘Southern Water recognises it must be part of the solution and is playing it's part through a sustained programme of investment and activity.’

The utilities firm, ordered to pay up £126m two years ago over its failures for spills of wastewater across its network, was at the meeting on May 21.

It hopes a vision of the harbours in 2030 can be drawn up by all participants.

Professor Sir Dieter Helm CBE, who independently chaired the forum, said: ‘The status quo is unsustainable and therefore it will not be sustained.

‘This is the chance to grasp the prize of a greatly enhanced natural capital of the harbours with all the multiple benefits this will bring - and it can only be achieved in an integrated way, with all the parties joining together in a comprehensive natural capital plan.’

Measures to improve water quality include ‘nature-based solutions,’ advances in technology, nitrogen and water standards in new housing, and encouraging the public to act be more water efficient.

Threats to the harbour include high nitrates levels that create algae mats – harming wildlife.

Hampshire County Council, Chichester District Council, Natural England and the Environment Agency are among those involved.

Sue Beale, Kent and Sussex Manager, Natural England said: ‘As shown by the recent Natural England report on the condition of the harbours, there are a range of urgent environmental issues which need tackling to secure the future of the harbour.

‘The Save our Harbours Summit felt like an important step towards the necessary collaborative approach, joining up and focusing energy on delivery and funding to drive forward collective nature recovery on land, water and sea; linking up with local communities and paving the way for the harbours to be a flagship for the natural capital approach in the future.’

However, the move has not impressed members of Hayling Sewage Watch, who have been campaigning against Southern Water’s waste water releases.

The group’s Mike Owens said: ‘The headline says it all – “commits to action”. But doesn’t actually do anything. It doesn’t provide a date that the improvement plan will be ready to go or explain what proportion of the previously announced investment from Southern Water will be spent in protecting Langstone and Chichester Harbours.

‘If Ian McAulay - who picked up £1.1m in pay, bonuses and pension last year - was serious about stopping his company constantly polluting our seas and rivers he would already have a fully funded programme in place to address the problem. We should know precisely what he will be doing to protect our harbours. But we still don’t. This feels like just another talking shop.

‘Southern Water has consistently polluted the Solent and Langstone and Chichester harbours. In 2020 it discharged raw sewage into waterways over an incredible 197,213 hours.’