Assurances have been sought from Southern Water that it has the capacity to meet the demand from new housing developments in Wealden.

The issues were raised during a presentation and question and answer session at Wealden’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting on Monday (January 24) – a chance for committee members to hold the water company to account.

.Councillors quizzed Southern Water’s chief executive officer Ian McAulay and Chris Braham, the head of wastewater strategy and planning, and other officials as to whether the company – which provides wastewater services across the Wealden district – has the capacity to deal with the thousands of new homes the government expects Wealden District Council to provide in the coming years.

Of particular concern to Wealden councillors has been the capacity surrounding combined sewer overflows – in light of heavy rainfall causing capacity of pipes to possibly be exceeded leading to flooding in peoples’ homes, roads and open spaces – and at Waste Water Treatment Works.

While Southern Water, which inherited the sewer system – parts of which were laid more than 50-100 years ago – says it has capacity until 2030, councillors have pushed the company for the number of homes it has based that figure on – especially in light of the emerging Local Plan which Wealden is producing.

Mr McAulay said Southern Water had invested £25 million at Hailsham North and South Waste Water Treatment Works to meet much tighter environmental standards and that both facilities have a design horizon of 2030 to allow for growth and development in the area’s future demand.

Councillors were also told that while Southern Water is not a statutory consultee on planning applications submitted to Wealden council, each time a site receives planning approval a hydraulic model is updated to determine the impact of a new development on the sewerage system performance and any reinforcement required to allow additional flows to be accommodated.

This way, says Southern Water, any future developments take account of the approved additional flow in the system and the cumulative impact of many small developments can be understood.

Mr McAulay also said that new treatments at Hailsham North Treatment Works were already significantly enhancing the environment in Pevensey Levels and helping support rare habitats and that phosphorous permits at the facility were among the tightest in the country.

The company is also using the latest water supply treatment technology and considering what uses treated water could have in the future bearing in mind expected water shortages from climate change.

It is also working to the future and pushing sustainable water treatment rather than building new treatment works which could cause net environmental damage.

Mr McAulay said, “Our planning strategy teams will continue to work closely with planning authorities to understand any changes to growth projections which may impact available headroom.”

Wealden District Council leader Bob Standley said, “We welcomed the opportunity to meet with Southern Water and will continue that dialogue to ensure the company provides answers to our outstanding questions.

“We will also be reviewing the company’s evidence with Southern Water officials and the Environment Agency.”