There are many things we have learnt from the pandemic, but certainly one lesson has been how much we value our outdoor spaces and local waterways, particularly when we are suddenly unable to use them for prolonged periods.
As we approach the summer, the weather gets warmer and restrictions ease, it has been a pleasure to see places like Langstone Harbour being used, as these locations will no doubt become particularly popular destinations for local residents and for those further afield too in the weeks ahead.
However, Langstone Harbour and its surrounding environment has been continually neglected by allowing excessive sewage to be released in and around it, despite repeated warnings from local groups and government.
There have been a range of funding announcements over the past year from the water company responsible for these sewage overflows, but while I have met with the Environment Agency, key community groups and concerned constituents, asked questions of government and recently written to the company to discuss this issue of growing concern, it is clear there are no targeted short or long-term plans to tackle the underlying cause: capacity issues at Budds Farm treatment facility.
However, my focus right now is what can be done to resolve issues surrounding treatment capacity in the short-term – something that the Environment Agency has raised with me as more people begin to enjoy the harbour as we slowly unlock.
It is clear the situation is deteriorating, with reports just a few weeks ago of what was likely untreated sewage released into the harbour, with many constituents sharing their concerns with me on this latest incident in recent days.
Our natural environment is a fantastic asset to our city which should be open for everyone to enjoy, but only while it is protected and used sustainably. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with the Langstone Harbour Board on patrol out on the water recently, to learn more about how they keep people safe and its present challenges like sewage discharge and other threats to its natural beauty which is clear to see.
Despite being the worst performing water company in 2019, Southern Water has made some progress to reduce overall Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) in the region, with only 20 CSO discharge notifications in 2020 issued per 10,000 km of sewage network, compared to 174 in 2019.
However, more has got to be done to address sewage pollution closer to home, including places like Langstone Harbour. Government and water companies alike must own their responsibilities and take urgent action to protect Langstone Harbour and its surrounding environment.
Constituents can rest assured this will continue to be one of my top priorities over the months ahead.