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Gloucestershire Business News

Labour kicks up a stink over Gloucester sewage scandal

Labour politicians have ramped up the pressure on Tories to end the "scandal" of sewage dumping in our waterways.

Alex McIntyre, prospective parliamentary candidate for Gloucester, has accused the city's MP Richard Graham of allowing it to be "treated as an open sewer".

He has backed an open letter which urges Conservative MPs to end the foul problem by voting for Labour's Opposition Day motion.

It paves the way for Labour's Water Quality (Sewage Discharge) Bill which aims to end the pollution of waterways by implementing stronger monitoring of outlets and automatic fines for sewage dumping.

Mr McIntyre said: "In 2022, the Conservatives allowed 427 hours or just over 17 days of continuous flow of raw sewage to be dumped in Gloucester's open spaces.

"Richard Graham has allowed Gloucester to be treated as an open sewer and it shows that his party has no respect for our communities, where people live and work.

"As MP for Gloucester, I would be fully supporting Labour's plan to end the Tory sewage scandal and build a better Gloucester."

It is a year since Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey visited Gloucestershire to raise awareness of the damage being caused by the sewage pumped into the River Chelt.

Figures from the River Trust show there were 5,178 instances of raw sewage being released into our county's rivers in 2021. That totals 50,602 hours, or an average of 137 hours of dumping every day.

In May 2022 Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk secured a "cast-iron commitment" from Severn Trent that it would take measures to reduce the use of emergency storm overflows at the Dowdeswell site by 85 per cent by 2024.

And in February this year Thames Water, which supplies Cirencester and a swathe of the Cotswolds, announced spending of £1.6billon for the next two years to address discharges into rivers and tackle pollution.

Labour wants to go a step further and bring in new laws to prevent dumping and to punish those caught doing it.

The open letter has been sent to Tories by Labour's Shadow Environment Secretary, Jim McMahon, environmental campaigner Feargal Sharkey and other Labour Parliamentary Candidates.

It criticises Conservatives for blocking Labour-backed amendments to end sewage dumping and accuses them of showing disregard for the "environment, for public health and for businesses that rely on the beauty and nature of Britain to attract visitors and thrive."

Labour is preparing to force a binding vote in the House Commons on May 2 to introduce its Water Quality (Sewage Discharge) Bill.

It seeks to legally underpin four crucial reduction measures:

- Setting a legal requirement for the monitoring of all sewage outlets and penalties for failures in adhering to monitoring requirements;

- Imposing automatic fines for sewage dumping;

- Implementing a legally binding target to reduce sewage dumping events;

- A requirement for the Secretary of State to publish a strategy for the reduction of sewage discharges and regular economic impact assessments.

The letter warns that if Tory MPs fail to support the current version of the Bill they will be "voting to for a second time to continue the Tory sewage scandal."

Earlier this month Labour analysis of Environment Agency data revealed that since 2016, a new sewage dumping event has taken place an average of every two-and-a-half minutes, with rivers, lakes, seas, and beaches having faced a staggering 1,276 years' worth of raw sewage over just a seven-year period.

Jim McMahon, Labour's Shadow Environment Secretary, said: "It's clear that we have a Tory government that has run out of road, only regurgitating old announcements that do nothing to end sewage dumping. That's why Labour has brought forward legislation to clean up our water system.

"The onus is on Tory MPs to support Labour's Bill which will put an end to sewage dumping once and for all or alternatively, once again vote to continue the Tory sewage scandal.

"The next Labour Government will build a better Britain and end the Tory sewage scandal, delivering mandatory monitoring on all sewage outlets, introducing automatic fines for discharges, setting ambitious targets for stopping systematic sewage dumping and ensuring that water bosses are held to account for negligence."

Punchline has contacted Gloucester MP Richard Graham for a response.

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