Oh No! its Keith Jellicoe. Yes its me, who used to run the East Field Fairlight Action Group (EFAG) for some ten years with quarterly articles in the Fairlight News, stopping when my health meant I couldn’t continue. We fought off 4 Public Enquiries that seemed impossible.

Always aware of East Field this caught my eye: firstly the possible de-allocation of plans to build on areas in the Rother Local Plan, thinking this could be East Field (sometimes called Pond Field) and second the idea of Water Butts to solve the drainage problem, which initially I thought was far fetched but now thinking about it, any port in a storm! Just remember the Water Butts, simple plastic things will require proper maintenance! The last thing was I thought Fairlight relied on Soakaways for roof water drainage. Let’s hope I’m wrong! This was time for me to re-enter the storm and unfortunately I can only do it now to spread the word!

Firstly, I must congratulate the few villagers who led a comprehensive win at the Planning Hearing in Bexhill last year, which I and many villagers attended, with the Inspector rejecting 43 houses on Wakeham’s Pond Field. (an historic name to emphasise the serious problem that it would exacerbate the sewage pollution and flooding in Fairlight and downstream). I have a video showing ducks enjoying the flood on Pond Field! Let us hope the Planners agree with the points against building clearly stated in the inquiry report and others will be upheld!

Housing on Pond Field is a separate issue from, though intimately linked to Fairlight’s sewer system which as we all know, is vastly under capacity for the number of houses in Fairlight.

As Lorne Smith has already publicly explained, the issue of de-allocating Pond Field housing from the local plan is under consideration at Rother District Council and we can expect our Rother councillors Tim Grohne and Andrew Mier to pursue our interests. Rother have put back the public consultation on the local plan until Jan 2024 at the earliest, when residents can express their view. PLEASE BE READY TO DO SO! We Don’t believe the Water Butts should alter the reasoning for abandonment of building on Pond Field, they are not a cure all!

I thank Lorne for explaining below what is happening with Southern Water:

” Southern Water has set-up a Pathfinder Project working group with our MP Sally Ann Hart as the chairman to keep Southern Water on course and help them decide how best to spend their money on reducing sewage pollution overflows from the four Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) in Fairlight, and which includes the CSO at the Fairlight Waste Water Treatment Works.

The CSO’s greatly pollute Fairlight, Pett Level and the world heritage RAMSAR waterways downstream, as demonstrated by Simon Young’s recently updated Environmental Impact Study (recently sent round by Issy Horsley Chair of the Parish Council) that measures water pollution using the internationally recognised method of a biotic index of freshwater invertibrates.

Following heavy fines from OFWAT and the Environment Agency, Southern Water have an initial target of reducing the overall sewage spills in Fairlight down to 40 from over 100 per annum.

The question therefore for Southern Water is how to reduce these sewage spills into the water courses which happen when the sewer capacity is overwhelmed?

Five possible solutions are being considered

The working Group are researching and building data to look at five possible answers which they need to test over a period of time.

Does the lack of sewer capacity come from surges created from run-off surface water from 1) houses and 2) Highways, which perhaps can be attenuated?

Or 3) Fairlight, with extensive geological and groundwater issues, is at risk of flooding in places, and the ongoing survey within the Pathfinder Report documents this. Is it therefore a lack of maintenance, repair or replacement of damaged sewer pipes over the years that is a reason why there is ground and surface water infiltration into the combined sewer system, which then builds the surcharges?

(To stop the surcharges backing up into houses, the pressure is released with raw sewage overspilling from the CSOs and treatment works into the watercourses.)

Point 4) is to what extent does dry period sedimentation in the sewer pipes, when self-cleansing velocity is low, exacerbate the sewage surcharges? This could be a particularly difficult issue for Southern Water as dry-period oversplills, as mentioned in recent media reports, that I interpret are illegal.

Point 5) is the possibility that the capacity of Southern Water’s Waste Water Treatment works is insufficient for the catchment of over some 2000 residents and when there has been an increase in the number of people per house, than when built for 1500.

Southern Water have offered to install house water butts, suggest highways drainage needs diverting and are considering increasing the size of the attenuation tank on Lower Waites Lane.

Nevertheless, most houses within Fairlight are already on soakaways apart from those along the cliff and research and parish records suggests highways water within Fairlight primarily runs into the watercourses, though there was agreement between ESCC Highways and Southern Water years ago for one to go into the combined sewer.

Though a larger tank and water butts may help slow some of the initial overspill from the CSO’s when it rains and this needs to be measured over time, is there a fundamental under-capacity problem at the sewer works where most of the overspills occur?

Southern Water wants the residents to help them by installing water butts. This should be encouraged even though they realistically admit that this attenuation may pale into insignificance in the face of large rainfall when the volumes are overwhelming.

For the Pathfinder project to be more than a Southern Water PR exercise, Southern Water (as the new area manager has said) needs to change their culture to an open one. They need to fully divulge historical data.

This includes full data on 1) CSO overspills, 2) CCTV pipe damage footage, 3) sewer monitoring Data and 4) listing of the strucural integrity status of all sewer assets.

This will help, within the working group, a detailed, transparent analysis of the problems to be developed. The residents are well able to contribute, and can call upon their knowledge of over twenty years of sewage pollution and its effects not just on Fairlight but downstream.” End quote.

So, it seems to me, (Keith Jellicoe), that currently Southern Water’s proposals are a band-aid to fix a broken arm!

It is easier for Southern Water to blame residents and East Sussex Highways than their own poor practises and lack of maintenance, repair or replacement of damaged sewer pipes over the years.

Of course the real problem for Fairlight and downstream is, I suspect, that Southern Water does not see it as a priority to spend big money extensively surveying, upgrading and repairing our current system or make major improvements to the Fairlight, Waste Water Treatment Works in the short or medium term.

Jellicoe’s summary

In the interim, it would not be in Rother’s, Fairlight’s, Pett Level’s  nor in the environment’s interest to have any extra pressure put on the system’s capacity from housing on Wakeham’s Pond Field. The main aim of EFAG! 

(I apologise for the length of this letter, let us hope it gets results!)

Yours sincerely Keith Jellicoe

What is going on with Pond Field and Southern Water