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Tourist site boss demands action over flooding in the Burnhams

Lack of investment by Anglian Water could spell disaster for businesses in Brancaster and the Burnhams just as they get the green light to re-open after lockdown, according to a tourism site owner.

Jason Borthwick, who owns Deepdale Farm and its camping site, is accusing the authority of polluting the environment and failing to maintain a sewage system that dates back to the 1960s.

He said: “Locals know that the sewage system floods at the slightest hint of rain, but the last seven weeks have seen constant pollution from the Anglian Water system, pouring sewage water out of manholes and pumping stations all along the chain. In Brancaster it is fountaining out of the manhole on Beach Road and running directly into the Creakes, the National Trust harbour and all along the chain villages, houses and businesses are being flooded. The flooding has continued even when there hasn’t been significant rain for more than a week.

Polluted water bubbling out of a manhole in Beach Road, Brancaster
Polluted water bubbling out of a manhole in Beach Road, Brancaster

“Right now the North Norfolk coast is quiet. There are a few second home owners in the locality, but the vast majority aren’t visiting, the holiday cottages are empty, and hotels and other tourism accommodation are closed. Yet Anglian Water can’t cope with the contents of the sewer.

“In mid-April, the coast could go from empty to full overnight. How will the sewage system cope with this massive increase in raw sewage going into an already overwhelmed system?

“The worry is that the lack of action by Anglian Water will be the final death nail in the coffin of hundreds of businesses. The flooding will lead to major road repairs and possibly road closures. Will holiday cottages have to cancel bookings due to their toilets not being able to drain away? Will cafés and pubs, that can finally reopen with outdoor tables, not be able to offer toilets for customers? Will second home owners decide not to visit as they won’t be able to use their facilities? Its very clear that Anglian Water aren’t taking their sewer flooding issues on the Norfolk Coast seriously, hoping that the water table will drop and the problem will simply go away, rather than actually finding a solution.

Flooding caused road closures in Burnham Market earlier in the year
Flooding caused road closures in Burnham Market earlier in the year

“Put simply, there must be a spring or springs flowing into the sewers, yet Anglian Water haven’t undertaken proper survey work to identify where the extra water is coming from. They need to do a full camera survey of the system, identifying where excess water is entering the system, and sort the issue now.”

He also accused Anglian Water of releasing untreated sewage into the River Burn and the Environment Agency of granting a licence for them to do so as an emergency fix which isn't working.

Anglian Water denied there was a specific problem with the sewer network. A spokesman said the issues were due to unprecedented rainfall and sheer volume of ground, surface water and river flooding inundating the network and the teams had been working round the clock to help communities.

Once water levels have subsided, they said, they would make it a priority to investigate to see if high groundwater levels have damaged the network.

.An Environment Agency spokesman said: “All water companies have strict conditions around discharges specified through their permits. It is the responsibility of water companies to comply with the law and to avoid pollution.

“In this instance, Anglian Water have asked the Environment Agency for permission to temporarily discharge a combination of excess groundwater and sewage into the River Burn. This is to prevent this water from backing up and flooding homes and businesses. At the moment there is capacity in the river so we have approved this temporary request.

“Anyone who spots pollution in the environment should report it to our free 24-hour hotline: 0800 80 70 60.”

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