Campaign group claims new housing estates may cause ‘toxic gardens, noxious smells and rural pollution’

Polluted stream SUS-160106-102210001
Polluted stream SUS-160106-102210001

A trend for building housing estates without mains sewage will result in ‘toxic gardens, noxious smells and increased rural pollution’, warns CPRE Sussex.

The organisation claims that a growing number of Sussex developers are seeking to overcome the problem of rural sewage by installing what’s known as ‘Packaged Treatment Plants’ (PTPs), which discharge into local ditches and streams.

PTPs have been used for individual rural homes for many years, but there is growing concern that using the same system for larger housing estates could lead to uncontrolled pollution.

Computer scientist Ian Simmons lives near a small housing estate using a PTP and said the system fails on average every 18 months.

“We’ve had one failure already this year,” he said. “It pumps out into a stream that emerges at the end of my garden, so when it fails it smells very badly indeed.

“The stream unfortunately goes milky white with raw sewage and obviously kills all the local wildlife. It is near to our vegetable garden and it makes you think, ‘I don’t want those vegetables.’”

Director of CPRE Sussex Kia Trainor says the problem is exacerbated in the Wealden area due to a near doubling of the district’s housing targets since its local Plan was first adopted in 2013.

She said, “This is despite local concerns about whether infrastructure, including waste water capacity and the local transport network, can be upgraded in a timely manner to meet this high target.

“The council has also recently stated that it is unable to demonstrate a deliverable supply of houses for the next five years against its new Objectively Assessed Need for housing and will therefore be at greater risk of unplanned development. “This is bad for local communities and bad for the local environment.”

A Wealden District Council spokesperson said, “All Package Water Treatment Plants of a certain size require an Environmental Permit from the Environment Agency before they can be installed.

“A planning application for a large development which relied on a Packaged Treatment Plant was turned down by Wealden District Council in 2012 amid concerns about the effect of the development on the Pevensey Levels but this decision was overturned by the Secretary of State following Planning Inspector’s advice.

“Building regulations require that a PTP must be able to continue to function for six hours after a power cut and, if it is a pumped system, must also contain 24 hour holding capacity.

“Many PTPs are remotely monitored which enable any problems to be dealt with quickly, but they do require regular maintenance.

“The council has voiced its concerns about the widespread use of PTPs. It is hoped these are only used as a short term measure until Southern Water’s increased treatment capacity comes on line in 2022.”

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