Eastbourne and Willingdon MP Caroline Ansell has held a high-level ‘Water Summit’ to discuss ongoing concerns from sea swimmers about bathing water quality and sewage discharges.

Caroline chaired the event in the Town Hall recently. It was a result of a meeting on the beach in February between Caroline and Eastbourne Swimmers.

Those who attended included four members of the swimmers and representatives from Southern Water, East Sussex County Council, the Blue Heart Project and the Environment Agency.

One of the main discussion points was the reduction of sewage discharges. Southern Water outlined its commitment to reduce the amount of surface water in combined sewage overflows by 80% by 2030.

As a result of Caroline’s meeting, Southern Water is to meet again with the swimmers and will be organising a tour of the treatment centre for them.

Caroline raised the power outage incident that occurred in February 2022 and concerned many constituents. The Environment Agency and Southern Water investigated this and suspect that it was a result of an overwhelming of both surface and foul water within the system which caused the power outage.

The Environment Agency emphasised that the borough council holds responsibility for environmental health and the power to shut the beaches if there is a danger to the public. However, a representative from EBC was not at the meeting. Caroline has written to them to find out the answer and the process behind the decision not to close the beach.

“This was a really positive meeting where lines of communication were opened between local people who care deeply about water quality and those tasked with ensuring our sea is clean.

“I think everyone took a great deal from it and it keeps this issue at the top of the local agenda.

“Thank you to everyone who attended. The plan is to have more of these meetings in the future so we can keep track of progress with the ambition to have Eastbourne’s water rated excellent in the future.

“Our coastal setting and the opportunities the sea affords local people and our visitors is our number one asset. It is vital it is better protected. The Environment Act brings in a host of new powers and duties on water companies.”

Caroline added she would be speaking to DEFRA regarding the definition of the ‘bathing season’.

“The current guidance is from mid-May to late-September however the Swimmers use the sea 365 days a year,” she explained.

East Sussex County Council also gave a presentation about the Government funded Blue Heart Project. The authority is using some of the £4.5 million to investigate the flood management and water works system in Eastbourne to try and find innovative ways to reduce surface water and flood risk to residents.