Hayling’s wonderful beaches hit BBC South’s television coverage in early August for the wrong reasons. Before exploring the background to this news report, it’s important to note that Hayling’s seawater quality is good 95% of the time but it is the impact of particularly heavy rainfall that is the issue here.
Local watersports enthusiasts alerted our Councillors and Southern Water (SW), at a Hayling Infrastructure Advisory Group back in 2017 under the Chairmanship of Cllr. Michael Wilson, to the too often unhealthy state of our beaches’ sea water following SW’s untreated dischargers. Yet the Environment Agency has continued to permit Southern Water to make, in this year alone (BBC South Today August 5th 2019) 146 untreated discharges into Langstone Harbour following heavy rainfall. Langstone Harbour Board’s own concern about the Harbour’s water quality, has, for a number of years, taken on itself to inform the public, via its website, the dates when these occur. Unfortunately this is not necessarily helpful as it is post event and, for the layperson, we have little idea of just what impact that particular discharge might have on, for example, Hayling’s south beach where we’re in the water.
Southern Water is also trialling a Beachbuoy system but so far inquiries have been unable to ascertain exactly when and how this will provide the essential information for water users. Also whilst Havant Borough Council (HBC) advice is that bathers should not swim for 72 hours following rainfall, there is not yet systematic management of the Blue Flag indicator, which has been seen flying after 24 hours of rainfall. Consequently watersports enthusiasts have been forced themselves to employ professional water quality monitoring to the EU Bathing Waters Directive standard at our beaches; they have done so in order to expose the fact that none of the Environment Agency, SW and HBC are providing essential advance notices across our beaches for our bathers and others in the water. The repeated testings follow SW’s discharges, and reveal the alarming “poor quality” E-Coli count: eg 740 and a 500 count is “poor”. Despite SW’s claim that its Langstone Harbour discharges generally decay before reaching the harbour mouth, such sampling indicates that this is not necessarily the case. Complainants have also recorded seeing, after rainfall, toilet paper at the high water mark.
It is therefore encouraging to see and hear our Cllr. Michael Wilson on the BBC South programme expressing HBC’s concern about this poor state of affairs. The planned testing and monitoring is to take evidence back to SW to press for their remedying the situation. However it has taken months if not years of endless emails and investigations by water users themselves, alerting our Councillors and SW itself, just to get to this point. Residents look to its Councillors to be pro-active and most definitely responsive to continued complaints. In this important health and safety issue, we are all fortunate indeed that watersports users have been able to have our sea water tested in such a systematic and irrefutable way. But it should never have reached this point.
We have yet to learn the outcome of HBC’s letter to The Rt. Hon. James Brockenshire MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, in which it is requested that the Government provide a solution that would, effectively, allow the Council to allow housing development despite the recent European Case Law (reference C-293/17, C-294/17) requiring development to be ‘nutrient neutral’. Nitrates and the wider nitrogen cycle are naturally present in our environment but both building development and agricultural practices release the excessive nitrogen that harms our harbours, water course and air quality, hence the moratorium on planned mass housing development. Apparently agricultural and animal farming pollution can be minimised but it is not clear if the same could be true for housing developments. We have yet to see independent research demonstrating that, for example, the additional 11,000 homes for Havant, can be achieved without causing considerable harm to our drinking water, local harbours and our air quality. So-called ‘mitigation banking’ that would allow the Council to permit further development does not address these fundamental issues.
Next Public Meeting & AGM: Friday October 18th 7:15 for 7:30pm Hayling Community Centre, Station Road.
Contact HIRA firstname.lastname@example.org or drop boxes: Hayling Community Centre, West Town; Morris Dibben, Mengham; The Terracotta Pot and Gift Shop, Eastoke; Library, Elm Grove. www.haylingresidentsassociation.co.uk