Water firm vows to act on leaks

Public meeting at Swaffham Town Hall, Chaired by Baroness Shephard.'LtoR, Rob Slade (AWA), Baroness Shephard, Christopher Hastings (AWA), Anne Thorp (Swaffham Mayor), David Ward (AWA) ANL-150519-200328009
Public meeting at Swaffham Town Hall, Chaired by Baroness Shephard.'LtoR, Rob Slade (AWA), Baroness Shephard, Christopher Hastings (AWA), Anne Thorp (Swaffham Mayor), David Ward (AWA) ANL-150519-200328009
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Water company bosses have admitted that supply interruptions caused by burst mains in Swaffham are becoming more common.

But, during a public meeting in the town hall on Tuesday, Anglian Water officials pledged to look into the issues, report back within six weeks and act upon their findings.

The town’s former MP Baroness Shephard, who chaired the discussion, said afterwards: “It could hardly have been a more positive meeting.”

The meeting, hosted by the town council, was called 
following repeated interruptions to water supplies in the town in recent years, including two in the last three months alone.

Baroness Shephard said supplies had been cut to her home eight times in the 10 years she has lived there.

And she told company executives: “I think you really have to realise that as many disruptions to water supplies as that is unacceptable.

“It is unreasonable to expect people to pay the full water rate if they have that number of interruptions.”

She said residents felt the solutions offered so far had been “temporary” and the problem could put businesses off investing in the area.

She added: “We do expect, like everyone else, to have a normal, constant service in this town.”

The meeting also heard that the town’s current MP, environment secretary Elizabeth Truss, had also requested a report of the discussions.

David Ward, Anglian Water’s head of networks, said the overall rate of leakage in Swaffham was lower than the company average.

But he conceded incidents in which supplies were lost due to burst mains had become more frequent in the past two to three years, adding: “We need to understand that.”

He said an investigation of the town’s supply network was needed to find the underlying causes before any solutions could be implemented.

Four potential pipe replacement sites have been identified in Watton Road, North Pickenham Road and Norwich Road, plus at the junction of Beachamwell Road and Cley Road.

However, Mr Ward said they would seek to reduce the burden on areas of high pressure first and only replace mains if that could not be done.

He also warned that, if new mains were needed, it could be up to a year before work to install them is completed.

But he pledged: “There will definitely be work done. How much, where and what is what we need to report back on.”

A written presentation revealed £1.5 million is set to be spent on new mains near Swaffham over the next five years.

And the company is also planning a water efficiency programme in 2017-18, which will include installing new equipment in some residents’ homes to save water.

Mr Ward said the whole of East Anglia was a “water-stressed” area, adding: “The Environment Agency has made it clear that long-term, there is no available water resource , so it is absolutely important for us to be as water efficient as possible.”

However, several councillors voiced concern over the potential impact of current and future housing developments on the water system.

Mayor Anne Thorp summed up the anxieties when she said: “We’ve had many members of the public worried about the infrastructure. Are all of these things adequate for what lies ahead?”

Questions were also raised over drainage issues and talks will take place with Norfolk County Council officers to determine what action should be taken and by whom.