Agenda and minutes

Extraordinary virtual meeting, Scrutiny Committee - Thursday, 17th March, 2022 10.30 am

Venue: Online via the Zoom app

Contact: Sarah Jenkins  01395 517406; email

Note: This meeting will be for one hour 10.30 - 11.30am 


No. Item


Declarations of interest

Guidance is available online to Councillors and co-opted members on making declarations of interest



Minute 57. Presentation by South West Water followed by questions from Members of the Scrutiny Committee, Members and the public.

Councillor Eileen Wragg, Personal, Member was awarded a Pure Service Award by South West Water.


It was noted that all Members had an equal personal interest as customers of South West Water.



Chair's opening comments, welcome and introductions


The Chair welcomed Mr Alan Burrows, Director of Environmental Liaison and Culture for South West Water, to the meeting and expressed the hope that the meeting would be the start of an on-going constructive dialogue between the Council and South West Water.


The meeting had come about due to Members’ concerns primarily about sewage contamination in East Devon’s watercourses and coast.  Questions from Members had been sent to South West Water in advance.


Presentation by South West Water followed by questions from Members of the Scrutiny Committee, Members and the public pdf icon PDF 381 KB


Mr Burrows gave a presentation on the work of South West Water (SWW) with key points as follows:

·        Regarding water quality, SWW will: build on the success of the ‘Clean Sweep’ coastal investment programme in the South West; improve monitoring, real time live data and transparency; deliver a step change by reducing the impact on river water quality by one third by 2025.

·        Storm overflows were explained, including the demand on the network, and plans are being developed for further investment in infrastructure to reduce usage of storm overflows. 

·        In the local area, SWW is committed to sharing data and information about potential impact, real time notification via BeachLive [] with free alerts for beaches in Devon when storm water overflows may temporarily affect bathing water quality.  It was noted that Exmouth Beach has been rated ‘excellent’ for bathing water quality.

·        Regarding the Maer Lane facility in Exmouth, it was noted that there is a temporary increase in operation vehicles pending completion of improvement and upgrade works at other sites

·        In Exmouth there is investment in a £1.2million project for surface water separation and a £2.5million project for rising main replacement to improve treatment capacity.

·        It was noted that SWW is not a statutory consultee in the development planning process.  The company works with developers to ensure that its assets can cope with increased demand.  Nature based drainage solutions are promoted.

·        Partnership working is crucial to making the changes everyone wants to see.  The presentation outlined ways in which collaborative working helps with finding solutions and how simple changes which the public could make would reduce the impact on SWW’s systems.


The Chair thanked Mr Burrows for his presentation. 


In responding to questions from Members, Mr Burrows advised the following:

·        Regarding the reporting of sewage spills on The Rivers Trust website, differences in the figures shown for Honiton may be due to the figures being for different events such as a combined sewer overflow or an emergency overflow.  When considering spills, it should be noted that the volume, rather than the length of time, was important.  SWW is working with Exeter University and the Centre for Resilience in Environment, Water and Waste (CREWW) to develop technology to measure spill volumes.

·        SWW is required to do a root cause analysis for instances of failure for phosphate levels and data is then shared with the Environment Agency (EA).

·        Regarding storm water instances, which are likely to increase due to climate change, all new development must have surface water separation as part of planning conditions to prevent surface water from entering the sewerage systems.  Where surface water cannot be separated, other options are available, including nature based solutions to slow water flow and temporary storage before release back into the system.

·        Although not a statutory consultee, SWW development planning team constantly reviews local plans to ensure that it is aware of planned development and the capacity which would be required.  Where there is insufficient capacity, this would be built into the business planning  ...  view the full minutes text for item 57.