A photo of a smiling man in a blue shirt, with the beach in the background. Overlaid text quotes from a letter to Southern Water.

Hastings Council Leader’s Observer column – 21 July 2023

Hastings demands clean water

At Full Council this week, I read out my open letter to the Chief Executive of Southern Water.

‘We continue to see a series of major disasters in Hastings. Some of these may well be due to the age of your infrastructure, some will be down to the way our town has grown and developed, and others will be because of how you manage the service. I have come to the conclusion after your two recent letters of apology that a reset is needed in order for Southern Water to regain the trust of our residents.

To remind you, we have had four further bursts to the main sewer that first burst on Bulverhythe beach two years ago. Yet you have not yet replaced this pipe.

Then on January 16th we had the worst floods the town centre has known. You promised me every effort to understand why this happened and what we need to do to prevent future flooding. But six months later, the investigators have had to call you out for not providing the evidence needed. So we, the Council, the residents and the traders are none the wiser why this happened.

And for the last two months, we have been firefighting a series of environmental disasters in Old Roar Ghyll and Alexandra Park. You have discovered more than 12 misconnections, and several blocked sewers. Angry residents feel patronised and ignored. So we have set up a residents’ group to defend the Ghyll, and want you to take part.

I feel it is time for you to make Hastings a priority, work with us and ensure our residents know what is going on. Where is your investment plan? Why is our sea still so polluted?

We are in your hands, you have the expertise and the funding. Will you work with us?’

There is widespread agreement that this private company is letting us all down. And current regulation gives us no power to hold them to account.

The same applies to Housing and to Education.

I want more local control, with our voices heard about what is working and what isn’t.

That doesn’t need new money or a change of government. It just needs these private companies to accept that they are here to deliver local public services, and to do that really well, local voices have to be heard. Don’t you agree?