Our Burgh and Tuttington Parish Council has been banging on for some time now about the lack of capacity of the Aylsham Anglian Water Recycling Centre (AWRC) – or sewage works to you and me – and it seems someone just might have been listening.
The government, in the guise of Environment Secretary Steve Barclay, recently ordered Anglian Water to up the capacity of various sewage works in the Broads catchment area and beyond, including ours in Aylsham, according to an article in the EDP.
This has been part of a broader policy called Nutrient Neutrality administered by the government watchdog Natural England who are trying to control the levels of nitrates and phosphates entering our rivers and having a negative impact on wild plants and animals in and around Broadland waters. Nitrates and phosphates are released not only by places like sewage works but they are also in field run-off where excess farm fertilisers end up in our rivers. Once there, they encourage growth of algae that suck oxygen out of the water directly affecting fish, river insects and river plants and indirectly the other wildlife that depends on the river and broads environment.
The Nutrient Neutrality policy has caused the hold-up of major developments across the country where they are near to valuable river environments. There have been various attempts to break the backlog but the House of Lords have acted to delay a final resolution. You would not be wrong in thinking that water companies play an important role in controlling releases into our rivers. But, cynics might have it that for some companies, deciding priorities to upgrade sewage treatment plants or paying shareholder dividends or paying bosses bonuses has not been easy for them.
Closer to home, our Parish Council objected to two recent planning applications in Aylsham for development of several hundred new houses on sites just west of the A140: one next to the old Motel on the Norwich Road and a second on the car-boot site. As part of the planning process, Anglian Water was asked to comment on their ability to accept the additional sewage generated by the large developments and they freely admitted that the AWRC did not have the capacity for the proposed influx of hundreds of new families into Aylsham. If you want to see what our Parish Council said in response, you can download their comments here.
In such circumstances, water companies are duty bound to do what is needed to increase capacity to accommodate new developments, and the Environment Agency is tasked with policing this to ensure they do. And we know what the result of this has been around the country with hundreds of reports of releases of untreated sewage into our rivers and onto our beaches.
The map here shows just how close our parish is to the sewage outfall from the the AWRC with Burgh, the Broads and the coast in the firing line downstream.
Let’s hope that money thrown at this problem does what it’s supposed to do and does not end up going down the pan and into our rivers.