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Organisation behind UK’s biggest pumping station that keeps Fenland from flooding faces massive hike in costs





The area’s drainage system is under stress following recent heavy rainfalls.

St Germans Pumping Station, operated by the Middle Level Commissioners, has been working harder than ever before discharging 77 cubic metres of water per second – a level it has never previously needed to operate at.

The giant station has a maximum capacity of 100 cubic metres a second when all six of its pumps are working at their absolute maximum.

Alongside record volumes of water being pumped to protect people, land, and infrastructure, Middle-Level Commissioners have faced a 1282% increase in electricity standing charges for St Germans Pumping Station.
Alongside record volumes of water being pumped to protect people, land, and infrastructure, Middle-Level Commissioners have faced a 1282% increase in electricity standing charges for St Germans Pumping Station.

The whole Middle-Level system is dependent on artificial pumped drainage and river embankments to move excess water from the lowest land in the country into the River Great Ouse via the St Germans Pumping Station.

There are still vast quantities of water within the system, being pumped into the Middle-Level system by Internal Drainage Boards and flowing into the system from saturated highland areas.

The Middle-Level Commissioners provides flood risk management that protects 8,516 households, 1,643 commercial and industrial properties, over 57,000 hectares of agricultural land, road links, railway lines, and Whitemoor Prison in March and is currently undertaking a £23m government-funded riverbank improvement scheme.

Alongside record volumes of water being pumped to protect people, land, and infrastructure, Middle-Level Commissioners have faced a 1282% increase in electricity standing charges for St Germans Pumping Station.
Alongside record volumes of water being pumped to protect people, land, and infrastructure, Middle-Level Commissioners have faced a 1282% increase in electricity standing charges for St Germans Pumping Station.

However, the Commissioners are currently appealing to the Government and the power watchdog OFGEM to look at the way new electricity standing charges have been introduced as part of the Targeted Charging Review.

In a response to OFGEM’s Review of Standing Charges the Commissioners claim the hike in charges over the last 12 months has been “punitively eyewatering”.

In a letter to OFGEM the drainage board said it did not feel the Targeted Charging Review had considered the “bespoke needs” of the Internal Drainage Board (IDB) sector and that its implementation has been “unfair”.

Chief executive Paul Burrows said in the letter: “Here at the Middle-Level Commissioners, we administer 29 smaller IDBs, 24 of which have electric-powered pumping stations.

“We also own and operate St Germans Pumping Station, the largest land drainage pumping station in the UK. Across our portfolio of assets, there are 67 electric meters and the standing charges have increased in total by 509% from £25,547 to £155,662 as a result of the Targeted Charging Review. The standing charge for St Germans Pumping Station has increased by 1,282% from £3,915 to £54,140.

“This winter is likely to prove a record-breaking one for land drainage pumping here in the Fens with record volumes already having been pumped at our St Germans Pumping Station. We provide a critical public service that not only protects lives and livelihoods from flooding but also protects key gas and electricity supply infrastructure.

“The costs of pumping are substantial, and the increases we have seen to standing charges over the last 12 months have been punitively eyewatering. I urge the government and OFGEM to reconsider their approach to our sector.”



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