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Gloucestershire Business News

VIDEO: Calls for action on river sewage and rising costs for business

Disgusting and hazardous sewage discharges into Gloucestershire's rivers need to be stopped say Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey.

The politician was in St Peter's Park today at an outfall where Seven Trent regularly pumps out raw sewage into the River Chelt.

The muck flows out just a few hundred metres from where children and dogs play during the warmer months.

New 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 last year.

Mr Davey said the site he was standing at, which is managed by Severn Trent, saw 139 discharges last year.

He said: "That's damaging for the environment, for animals and the ecosystem and it's also damaging to human health.

"Just several hundred metres down the road there's a park where children and dogs go into the river and sometimes that can be genuinely dangerous to human health."

Cllr Dr David Willingham (St Mark's and St Peter's) was also at the site and said Severn Trent has been called out in the past to deal with the foul effects of the sewage.

"They have to clean the grilles which get lots of unpleasant stuff wrapped around them and we have had to get them to remove sludge which collects in front of the outfall and can be incredibly smelly, especially in the summer heat."

Severn Trent, as the largest operator in the county, made up nearly three quarters of all release hours, at 37,602. At a task group meeting back in November, it said there were no plans to ever stop dumping raw sewage into our rivers, alongside Wessex Water. Thames Water said it hoped to stop raw sewage releases within the next 30 years, by 2050.

Mr Davey said :"What Liberal Democrats are calling for here in Cheltenham and across the country is for the government to get far tougher on water companies and make sure the Environment Agency is being far more robust in challenging this sewage discharge.

"It's disgusting. It should stop.

"We've been pushing but I'm afraid Conservative MPs, here in Cheltenham and across the South East and the country have been standing up for the water companies. We want MPs standing up for people and the environment."

Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) doesn't hold direct responsibility for the purity of water in rivers, which falls to the Environment Agency, but said it was working to improve the situation.

Cllr David Gray, Cabinet Member for Environment, said: "We share concerns about the quality of water in our rivers and GCC has set up a working party to look at the health of our rivers in the county, the recommendations from which will be published soon.

"As the recent statistics make clear, the water companies need to do a lot more to reduce the number of instances when pollution is allowed to enter rivers.

"Importantly, the national regulator needs to work harder to ensure that the companies both meet their existing responsibilities and improve their practices going forward."

Mr Davey also spoke about the cost of living crisis. Local traders have told Punchline exactly how they are feeling the economic squeeze with the cost of metal going up 25 per cent, wood mouldings 15 per cent and glass 20 per cent.

The Lib Dem leader said: "My heart goes out to the many businesses who are struggling at this time. They had a tough time during Covid now they have a tough time with the cost of the love crisis. The problem is we have a government in crisis as well. They are so distracted and divided they are not able to give this economic crisis the attention it deserves."

The Liberal Democrats have said the increase in National Insurance should be cancelled to help encourage customers back to small businesses. They have also argued for a cut in VAT of 2.5 percent which would deliver the average family £600 a year.

Mr Davey said there needed to be a "more coherent economic strategy" to help struggling high street businesses as well.

"We need bold measures and we're not seeing them from the government. Instead of cutting taxes they are putting them up."

He also repeated his calls for Boris Johnson to resign and said local politicians should be doing the same.

"I say to the Tory MPs like here in Cheltenham- when are you going to stand up? Why are you putting your political career and ministerial career above your constituents?

"Your constituents want you to champion justice, truth and stand up against a law breaking Prime Minister.

"So if Tory MPs don't do that I hope the electors will hold these people to account."

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