PRESS RELEASE: Liberal Democrat Zöe Franklin calls out Guildford’s Conservative MP for voting in favour of sewage being dumped in local rivers

October 26, 2021 1:53 PM
By Zoe Franklin

Amendment 35 Env Bill LetterThe River Wey and other watercourses across Guildford constituency is now under more threat as Government fails to take action on water companies

Local Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate Zöe Franklin calls for Angela Richardson MP to change her position ahead of the next vote in Parliament

The local Conservative MP for Guildford has been criticised by local campaigners after voting in favour of water companies dumping sewage in local rivers.

Last week MPs voted on Lords amendments to the new Environment Bill; however Conservative MPs, including Ms Richardson, voted against an amendment that would have banned water companies polluting rivers with sewage. Next week, there will be another opportunity for MPs to vote to protect local rivers.

Water companies pumped polluting and harmful raw sewage in national water sources over 400,000 times last year. The River Trust reveals more than half of England's rivers are currently failing to pass cleanliness tests due to water companies actions. According to their figures, the River Wey flowing through Guildford and Waverley is listed as one of the worst 23% in England for ecological and overall river health.

According to Thames Water's own data, across Guildford, Cranleigh and the surrounding area, the River Wey and other local watercourses have been damaged by sewage with the number of hours that raw sewage mixed with rainwater was flowing into the water increasing by 64%. In some areas, this increase was as high as 222%.

Local Liberal Democrat candidate Zöe Franklin, called out Ms Richardson MP for failing to protect local rivers:

"It is outrageous to see our MP betray our local community and environment in Parliament. Their job should be to stand up for our local area. Our rivers are being polluted on a daily basis by water companies, showing a complete disregard for our environment. Enough is enough, we need action before the River Wey and our other watercourses are ruined forever.

"Rivers should be safe for swimming, rowing, kayaking, fishing and sustaining wildlife. Yet today, they are filled with raw sewage and human waste which will destroy them for decades to come. For some areas, our rivers are a source of drinking water, yet today, they are a dumping ground for water companies.

"I am proud Liberal Democrats in Parliament are leading the fight to protect our local rivers and have written to Ms Richardson MP asking her to change her mind ahead of the crucial next vote. We have just one more opportunity to save our rivers and I call on Conservative MPs, especially Ms Richardson, to do the right thing for our local environment."

Notes to Editors:

Collated Storm Overflow Data 2019 & 2020 for Guildford Constituency

Full text of the letter below - since sending we have been advised that any new vote on the Bill and amendment are unlikely to take place tomorrow, Wednesday 27th October.

Ms A Richardson MP
House of Commons

25th October 2021

Dear Ms Richardson,

I am writing to you regarding your decision last week to vote against Amendment 25 to the Environment Bill and therefore continue to allow raw sewage to overflow into the UK's rivers and coastal waters.

As the current MP for Guildford constituency, I'm sure you're aware that currently the River Wey which flows through Guildford and Waverley is listed as one of the worst 23% in terms of ecological and overall river health. I'm sure you are also aware that across the constituency rainwater mixed with raw sewage was discharged into local watercourses for a total of 1789 hours over the course of 192 incidents in 2020. In addition to these recorded incidents, there are also at least three sewer storm overflows that do not have event overflow monitoring in place and therefore any incidents go unrecorded.

It is appalling that water companies continue to get away with this practice rather than being compelled by Government and law to undertake work to upgrade our aging sewage network and protect our precious rivers and coastal waters.

I also find it appalling that the Government's own Storm Overflows Task Force, which brings together Defra, the Environment Agency, Ofwat, Consumer Council for Water, Blueprint for Water and Water UK itself highlighted the issue earlier this year and promised action. What better way for the Government to show its commitment to deliver on this promised action than to write it into the Environment Bill through the inclusion of Amendment 25.

I urge you on Wednesday 27th October, when the Bill and Amendment returns to the Commons, to vote for the amendment and choose to put the needs and concerns of local residents, and the needs of our environment, first.

Yours sincerely,

Z Franklin signature

Zöe Franklin
Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for Guildford & Cranleigh