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Solutions to storm overflows explored in Whitstable, Kent

Southern Water’s CEO welcomed a meeting with SOS Whitstable to explore the innovative engineering and nature-based solutions being trialled to reduce storm overflows in Kent

Southern Water’s CEO welcomed a meeting with a local campaign group on the North Kent Coast to explore the innovative engineering and nature-based solutions being trialled to reduce storm overflows.  

Lawrence Gosden and the Southern Water team gave members of SOS Whitstable a tour around Swalecliffe Wastewater Treatment Works, where an ongoing multimillion pound investment is improving the site’s capacity to store stormwater more effectively.  

The group also heard and saw first-hand how Southern Water is deploying different tactics to slow the flow of surface water entering the sewer system during and after periods of rainfall. Storm overflows act as a release valve, when pressure on the network is too high, preventing flooding of homes, schools and communities. 

One such solution is the plan for the installation of 2,000 slow-draining water butts in the Tankerton area in collaboration with community groups including SOS Whitstable. Other initiatives in the Whitstable area include sustainable drainage schemes and efforts to ‘green’ community spaces. 

In total, Southern Water is investing over £25 million on upgrades to the Swalecliffe Wastewater Treatment works, and the replacement of the storm overflow pipe. On top of this, further investment is planned in the local area to reduce and slow the amount of surface water entering the system. 

SOS Whitstable is one of a number of stakeholder groups who attend our quarterly Swalecliffe Steering Group meetings, and we are working with them and Canterbury City Council so they can carry out bathing water testing.  

Mr Gosden said: “I fully recognise we haven’t got it right in the past, and I apologise to the local community. But we want to get it right, and this is why it was great to meet with SOS Whitstable and discuss all the activity happening to reduce storm overflows in the area.  

“It is so important that we listen to, and work collaboratively with, all our stakeholders, particularly as we all share the same common goal – the protection and enhancement of our precious environment. 

“We know that storm overflows are not acceptable, and we are working hard to reduce their use by exploring a range of solutions, from improving our existing infrastructure to implementing nature-based solutions for the benefit of our towns and cities. This will take a lot of time, money and partnership working, but we are committed to getting there and improving our performance in doing so.” 

Sally Burtt-Jones from SOS Whitstable, said:

"Today we have had an opportunity to see first-hand the work that has been started by Southern Water to reduce the amount of sewage being released into our seas. We await their clear commitments and timeline for delivery to enable us to hold them to account, and look forward to seeing evidence of progress. We have raised the concerns of the local community, water users and businesses who are hugely affected by storm overflows and will continue to request improvements from Southern Water, until our seas are clean and safe to use."

Southern Water is also working on plans to support Whitstable’s vibrant tourism economy, with announcements due in the coming weeks. 

Swalecliffe is one of six pathfinder projects being rolled out by Southern Water’s Clean Rivers and Seas Task Force, to reduce the use of storm overflows across the region. Find out more on our dedicated webpage