The water problems that frequently plague Wealden are unacceptable and alarming. Whether it is disruption of water supply or flooding and overspill, they impact thousands of people and in some cases, they leave families, businesses and schools without any running water for days.
I work with South East Water, Wealden District Council and the Sussex Resilience Forum throughout each incident of water outage to ensure that bottled water is delivered to those in need and all updates are appropriately communicated with Wealden constituents.
My priority is always to respond to vulnerable constituents and ensure they have access to water and other social services. Vulnerable or disabled customers, or those who have children under the age of 5 can register for South East Water Priority Services by using this link: www.southeastwater.co.uk/help/priority-services.
I have had several meeting with South East Water and Southern Water in the past and I continue to keep pressure on both companies to ensure that lessons are being learnt, and that local authorities hold them to account.
Additionally, I continue working with neighbouring MPs on holding Southern Water and the Environment Agency to account and ensuring that the Sussex waterways and coast are respected and protected from sewage discharge. I am pleased that the Government is committed to eradicating sewage discharges through the Environment Bill and fines of up to £250 million will be handed out to water companies that pollute our rivers and seas.
South East Water outage in December 2022
When the icy spell hit in December, leaky or burst pipes meant that South East Water (SEW) reservoirs in the Tunbridge Wells area were drained of their necessary capacity and unfortunately, this resulted in many homes in Eridge, Crowborough, Mayfield, Buxted and Wadhurst areas losing water for several days.
Running up to Christmas, I had many angry exchanges with SEW staff including the Chief Executive every day of the outage and I have been campaigning for full financial compensation. However, as reports emerged that some residents have either not received compensation, have been told that they were not eligible for it, or have received less than households in the neighbouring area, I convened a meeting with the Leader and Chief Executive of Wealden District Council to hold the directors of SEW to account and demand answers and explanations.
Moreover, some Wealden residents reported to have received communication from South East Water claiming that as a way of saying sorry to those who had minimal impact, a financial contribution would be made to the community following agreement with local MPs. This meeting also served as an opportunity to correct the record and confirm that I was never involved in any such discussions nor did I give consent to such compensation, and this correspondence was therefore misleading.
My statement: “South East Water have failed Wealden residents in the run up to Christmas when water supply was disrupted for several days, and they are failing them now by overcomplicating the compensation system and spreading misinformation. I had many exchanges with the Chief Executive of South East Water every day of the December outage, but have not been involved in any discussions regarding community contributions and I continue to push for fair and timely compensation to all households that were affected. I have requested that South East Water correct the misleading statement that has been shared with their customers and I insisted that any community contributions must be made in addition to all individual compensation payments, and must be discussed with the District Council, to ensure the funds are used effectively."
RESULT! Compensation payments secured for over 430 more Wealden households
Following the December 2022 incident, which saw thousands of households across Wealden including the Crowborough, Mayfield, Wadhurst and Buxted areas left without water for several days, I have been continuously campaigning for their full financial compensation households and was most concerned by reports that some residents have either not received compensation or have been told that they were not eligible for it.
To assess the scale of this problem, I launched a dedicated platform on my website for impacted residents to share their concerns and more information. Over 600 submissions have been made, details of which have been shared with South East Water to help with their review of impacted postcodes.
As a direct result of this campaign and my many meetings with the company, South East Water have confirmed that over 430 of the submissions made, including by customers in Crowborough, outer-Crowborough and Mayfield have now been included in the compensation scheme and would be receiving a payment of £75 for the December outage.
My statement: “I am pleased to have secured payments for more Wealden residents following my persistent campaign for South East Water to sort out their compensation chaos. It is shocking and unacceptable that despite having no water in the run up to Christmas, over 400 Wealden households would have received no compensation whatsoever without my involvement. I would like to encourage all Crowborough charities and community organisations to apply for support from the Community Fund, but there is still more to be done to ensure that Wealden customers do not miss out on individual compensation payments. It is regrettable that some households are still waiting for compensation, and I do hope that more good news will be forthcoming for other Wealden customers as I continue to push for a review of all impacted postcodes.”
Some positive responses from residents who received compensation:
"Thank you for your recent letter regarding the compensation for our time without water. Although only a small amount considering what we went through, at least it was some acknowledgement from South East Water. Thank you for your help in that." - Jenny, Mayfield
In addition to individual compensation pay-outs, South East Water are also distributing a £50,000 Community Fund to support local charities in and around Crowborough. Applications can be made at www.southeastwater.co.uk/crowborough. The closing date for applications is 5pm on 12 May.
Hellingly flooding and sewage overspill January 2023:
In early January, Hellingly residents experienced severe road flooding as well as sewage discharges into some of their gardens. Throughout the incident, I remained in close contact with Hellingly Parish Council and made several representations to Southern Water, calling for timely support for impacted customers and a full clean-up of their properties.
Given the severity of this incident, representatives from Hellingly Parish Council, Wealden District Council and East Sussex County Council including Highways gathered directly on site in Hellingly to hold Southern Water to account and to discuss the ongoing issues with drainage, and plans and priorities for upgrading the infrastructure including the local pumping station. Southern Water advised they would be carrying out a Connectivity Study of several hundred households in Hellingly and committed to reviewing flood improvements in the area.
You can read more about my campaign in the links below.