Milestone reached on river clean-up campaign
By Sarah Wood | 17th November 2023
Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk has secured a major river clean-up for the River Chelt.
Severn Trent Water agreed to his calls for a brand-new engineering solution to tackle sewage spills into the river.
In 2022, Mr Chalk tracked down the main overflow into the River Chelt, using maps from conservation organisation, The Rivers Trust.
Having located it in Charlton Kings near Dunkerton's, he called a meeting with Severn Trent chiefs on site, to make his concerns clear and to demand an end to this decades-old practice.
Last year, Severn Trent gave Mr Chalk a 'cast-iron commitment' to clean up the river. It pledged as an initial step to reduce overflows by 85% by the end of 2024.
Following the installation of new monitoring equipment and other mitigations, that target was hit in March 2023. There have been no spills since February.
Now Severn Trent has gone one step further, kicking off a major engineering scheme, involving laying a high-capacity pipe to reduce the risk further. Work began on the upgrade at the beginning of the October and is due to be completed by the end of January.
Mr Chalk joined water chiefs and engineers on site in Cheltenham, as a major milestone was reached on the project to install much larger sewers.
Alex Chalk said: "I am delighted with the progress that Severn Trent is making with the installation of a major new engineering project to tackle sewage spills into the River Chelt.
"After months of behind-the-scenes meetings and discussions - including a robust exchange of views about whether this was acceptable in the 21st century - I was pleased when Severn Trent agreed to my calls to end this decades long practice and to invest in a major engineering upgrade in Cheltenham to tackle sewage spills into the River Chelt.
"Work is progressing rapidly, and today's laying of the pipes marks a major milestone in our campaign to clean up the River Chelt.
"We are in touching distance of fixing this problem in our town - and securing a cleaner and greener river for future generations of Cheltonians, and local wildlife, to enjoy."
Mr Chalk continued: "Overflows are not new. They act a safety valve to stop loos backing up at times of heavy rain and have operated in Cheltenham for several decades. The overflow system is not unique to the UK. Similar arrangements are in place across Europe, including in Denmark and Germany.
"But thanks to the support of local people, the River Chelt is about to become a whole lot cleaner."
Andrew Fairburn from Severn Trent said: "We're delivering on plans that are working and reducing impact - and we'll continue to improve three storm overflows a week, every week, for five years.
"The sewage network in the Cheltenham area has ample capacity for sewage - but intense and heavy rain can lead to the network sometimes being overloaded and storm overflows spilling.
"Even though the system was designed to protect homes and businesses from flooding, following detailed discussions with Alex Chalk over the past year in which he made his concerns very clear, we're now doing two things to tackle spills into the River Chelt.
"First, we're lining the sewer in places where we know from our monitoring that rainwater is getting in. Second, we're putting in much bigger sewers to deal with the impact of climate change and population growth."
Liberal Democrat leader, Ed Davey, visited the River Chelt last year to call for a clean-up of the county's rivers.
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