‘Jellyfish’ swimmers and placards promised at triple dip demo in Thanet over Southern Water sewer outfalls

SOS Ramsgate protestors Photo Steven Collis

A triple dip protest will take place at Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate this Sunday – marking one year on from a mass rally which protested at Southern Water waste releases into Thanet’s coastline.

Last October SOS Ramsgate organised a gathering at the Western Undercliff  that was attended by some 300 people. It followed protests in Margate held in the wake of sewer outfall discharges that shut down the majority of the isle’s beaches in June and October.

Photo Steven Collis

This Sunday SOS Ramsgate will be joined by members of Surfers Against Sewage, Thanet Friends of the Earth, Plastic Free Thanet, Rise Up Clean Up Margate, Thanet Green and Labour party members and other local groups, to protest at Southern Water ‘inaction’ since pledges made at a public meeting in April and to ask what South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay is doing to combat the issue.

A parade of ‘jellyfish swimmer’ with placards will hit Margate Sands, by the beach café, at 1pm on Sunday, then travelling to Broadstairs, by the Funicular Coffee House, at 2pm and on to Ramsgate, by Wetherspoon, at 3pm.

People are invited to join the demo and are asked to support it by wearing blue.

Photo Steven Collis

SOS Ramsgate member Sue Gyde says there is frustration that pledges for a stakeholder group and citizen water testing have not come to fruition.

She said: “A whole year has gone by since our first SOS Ramsgate demonstration and nothing has happened.

“Garry Saunders, Elke Haeckel and myself on behalf of SOS Ramsgate, together with Karen Constantine KCC councillor, had managed to secure a public meeting with Southern Water in April 2022. Since that meeting nothing has happened.

“We have been asking for two main actions – to establish a community stakeholder group and a Citizen Science water testing group, but nothing has happened.”

Public protest about wastewater discharges October 2021 Photo Steven Collis

Campaigners also say they are disappointed that Mr Mackinlay did not attend an Environment briefing from Professor Chris Whitty in June or take part in a Parliament debate instigated by MP Huw Merriman about sewage discharges earlier this month.

“Recently I wrote to MP Craig Mackinlay about sewage discharges and apart from yet again pronouncing that he rebelled against the government to strengthen the Environment Bill, in itself debatable, he did not mention anything he personally has been doing in his constituency of South Thanet to ensure Southern Water keep to the promises made at the public meeting.

“He has never made any approaches to work together with SOS Ramsgate on solving this crisis, unlike Rosie Duffield Labour MP Canterbury who chairs their community stakeholder group and actively campaigns with the sea-facing community of her constituency.

“A key issue is this government is setting up a new body, Office of Environmental Protection, when we already have the Environment Agency that could enforce if it was fully funded.”

Photo Steven Collis

County Councillor Karen Constantine says people’s health and wellbeing is being “sacrificed by the cavalier attitudes of Southern Water and the inaction of our Conservative MP.”

She says she has written to Mr Mackinlay asking what action he is taking and urging him to take part in Huw Merriman’s debate on water discharges on October 12 in Westminster Hall, but says: “So far, he hadn’t responded to say what, if any action he has taken.”

The action comes on the heels of a national petition ‘Ban Water Companies discharging raw sewage into water courses.

Cllr Constantine said: “We are appalled by what is happening, and what keeps happening. Action to stop sewerage being released into our sea is lamentably slow. We are losing patience.

“Craig Mackinlay MP made fulsome reassurance’s at both the last Ramsgate SOS protest and the public meeting which I called for and pressured Southern Water to hold.”

Mr Mackinlay was among the MPs who rejected one amendment to the Environment Bill put forward by the House of Lords last year.

The amendment was to impose a duty on water companies to “take all reasonable steps to ensure untreated sewage is not discharged from storm overflows”.

Mr Mackinlay was one of a handful of Conservatives who voted against the original amendment, saying it was not strong enough. A reworked amendment secured his backing, with the MP saying additional measures gave the bill “teeth to require water companies to reduce sewage discharges.”

However, Cllr Constantine says the safeguards are “inadequate.”

She added: “Likewise, despite a robust dialogue with bosses at Southern Water, it is impossible to get them to uphold to their public agreement to implement a community stakeholder group so we can scrutinise decision making. Nor have they yet provided us with the promised kits to test the seawater for ourselves.

“We will not put up with being fobbed off. I’m afraid far too many of us are far too angry and disappointed with the shameful lack of action of both Craig Mackinlay MP and Southern Water.”

Photo Steven Collis

Mr Mackinlay has hit back saying the SOS event is “purely political” and that he has been in communication with Southern Water, the last time being on October 18.

He added: “The June briefing by Professor Whitty was, I gather, not terribly enlightening and I struggle to understand how my attendance would have solved the issue. My commitments to other Parliamentary business did not allow me to attend. “Reports from fellow MPs suggest that it descended into a Net Zero jamboree suggesting we don’t eat meat and all the rest.

“Following the successful public meeting that I organised on 21st April, it was never an action point for me to take up to organise a community stakeholder group – this was promised by Southern Water. I’d have obviously used my office to make it happen had I been advised by the local groups that they were being stonewalled in anyway and I can give an undertaking to do that as necessary.

“Southern Water additionally promised ‘real time’ testing equipment. Since then I have had at least two South East MPs Zoom meetings with Southern Water officials on top of regular email communication to get the truth about reported discharges throughout the late spring and summer period. The last Zoom meeting with the new CEO and the senior team was on Tuesday 18th October.

Margate pumping station Photo Southern Water

“The real time testing equipment is to be implemented imminently and they laid out other action points that were promised including £Bn investment into improvements. It’s all very well people thinking that this is a problem with an overnight fix, I wish it were, but I am satisfied enough at this stage that the new Environment Act is a statutory pathway to eradicating the issue of sewage discharges, albeit over a long-term period.

“The issue of ‘smart’ water-butts was again raised by me with them. This is a novel plan to provide water-butts which self-empty in advance of an expected high rainfall period allowing the water butt volume to be used as a roof run-off capture rather than the rain filling the combined sewer system (at the root of the problem).

“I can assure your readers that everything I can do to improve our local water quality is being done.”

Southern Water

A spokesperson for Southern Water, said: “We recognise the concerns of those who are protesting in Thanet.

“It is important to us that we work closely with our communities, and we remain committed to creating a stakeholder group in this area. We are in talks with Thanet District Council on how this might look.

“We are also continuing to trial ways to best help groups carry out accurate water quality testing and we are currently working on an approach with Canterbury City Council. The results will inform any possible approach in Thanet.

“While we have a key role, improving and maintaining water quality requires the input of many partners in finding solutions to the variety of factors that affect it. These include road and agricultural run-off. We are committed to reducing our use of storm overflows and are working hard to seek ways to remove rainfall from the sewage network.”

In July the water firm published a report which included proposals to cut storm releases into the sea off Margate.

Southern Water’s Storm Overflow Task Force said the Margate Pathfinder report was the first step of a collaboration between residents, councils, and community groups to improve drainage, manage wastewater flows, and significantly reduce the use of storm overflows in the area.

Storm overflow (combined sewer outfalls) releases occur in Margate due to the town’s predominantly combined sewer system, where both wastewater and rain runoff enter the same network. During heavy downpours, rain overloads the system. To avoid homes, businesses, schools and roads flooding, excess water is released into the sea. Releases are around 95% rainwater but have not been fully screened.

Southern Water says it is working alongside Kent County Council, Thanet District Council, and residents to improve drainage in the area and drive down the use of storm overflows.

Protest timings

Sunday, October 30

Margate Sands, by the beach café, 1pm

Broadstairs Viking Bay, by Funicular Coffee House, 2pm

Ramsgate, behind Wetherspoon, 3pm

Southern Water publishes ‘storm release reduction’ report for Margate

Bacteria monitoring and investment pledges made at Southern Water public meeting in Ramsgate


  1. Good luck with the protest but afterwards please turn your attention to the streets of Thanet.Not the streets near the seafronts but the streets where most people in Thanet live.The litter in these areas is industrial.Including so called Green Wards.Pollution is not something only related to our seawater.Its involves towns and surrounding countryside.Look at the A299 as you enter Thanet.The roadside grass verges are by far the most littered verges I have ever seen.Councillors pull your fingers out and get on top of this problem.

    • Rick, there are, just, four Green Pty Cllr’s in Thanet. All off them, as well as ordinary members, do loads of litter picking through the year in our towns and villages.
      The only ward you might describe as “Green” is Central Harbour where two out of three Cllr’s are Green.
      The Green Group at TDC has been very active and robust in attempts to get waste management, recycling and street cleaning working effectively. They’ve been doing this for years and continue to do so, the actions around Southern Water are more recent but won’t stop other work.
      Litter picking volunteers is not an ideal solution for Council failings. But if we want to improve our environments it is something that most of us can do while the fight at TDC continues.
      If you want more I’d suggest you vote Green in the 2023 Council elections, and get all yoyr friends, family and neighbours to do so as well.

      • Interesting comments about litter in Thanet. Garry you will know doubt recognise my name. I lived in a road adjacent to the one you live in Every week without fail I litter picked my road and collected on average a black refuse bag a week ranging from plastic bottles to used nappies and who dropped theses items? people, not the Council! Since moving away from Thanet six months ago I have not once had to pick up any litter from my road. Why? because no one drops any litter around here. I think that speaks volumes.

  2. I do not think it will make a bit of difference Southern Water do not give a monkeys they will just carry on regardless untill the government makes them do the right thing. Just this week there were more incidents blamed on the weather I do not recall that we had unprecedented amounts of rain????

  3. Mr Jenrick went on to say medical provision was provided for asylum seekers at the facility 24/7 and that a GP had also been placed at the site.
    I cant see a GP for 2 weeks!!!!!!

  4. Mr Mackinlay has been too busy getting Mr Sunak to reappoint Mrs Baverman as Home Secretary to ensure the tax payer funded, secretive, ultra right-wing ERG group remains powerful. He hasn’t had time to worry about poo in our seas. I wonder what external sectors like gas, oil or water also fund the ERG? Mr Mackinlay needs to prove that he is acting in the interests of Thanet and not these big businesses.

    • There are more pressing things bobbing about in our seas at the moment, which hopefully Mrs Braverman will tackle better than Mrs Patel did (or “Priti Useless” as Farage dubbed her!). Meanwhile, watch Thanet house prices tumble as the area regularly makes headline news.

  5. So interesting why some groups want to challenge SW Some activists have perma tans from swimming adjacent to an industrial harbour and known discharge agreements.
    Not going into detail but the beach and the sea bed owner given consent for discharges ? It may be on google or similar.
    Who owns the area’s where discharges are allowed ? Target them.

    So disappointed with the people that can influence ~

  6. You can Fred, you just can’t comment on articles about it on this site. I do not blame Kathy Bailes one bit for disallowing comments on some of the most controversial areas that bring out the worst in people – why on earth should she have to singlehandedly moderate the comments’ sections on her own news site?

  7. I find the sewage argument interesting- normally this is released following a malfunction or severe weather. Tha alternative is to let it back up into our houses? Or build a large sewage lake somewhere? (Not in my back yard!),or build more treatment works! (again, not in my back yard). Really for all the effluent created in Thanet, it may be only a few times a year. Don’t get me wrong, I do not like it or think it’s right to dump any rubbish anywhere on this world. Just not sure of the options.

  8. while we are on the subject of shi*e , thanet must also be dog shi* central for england , its not safe to walk near any grassed areas , and i fully back all the demonstrators regarding the ruination of our seas

  9. Instead of mockney protests, why dont the leaders of the protest ask SouthernWater to upgrade their infrastructure to stop the outfalls
    It will be a major infrastructure upgrade costing £billions, it can be done (its being done in other areas) but SW customers will have to pay for the upgrade. Other area is charging their customers a surcharge approx £25 per annum for ever!

    Proteste are free, getting something done costs ££’s

    • In the article you’d have read that the original protest, last year, was held simply because our requests for action by SW were ignored. This reflected similar situations across Thanet.
      In the last year Ramsgate SOS, Thanet Green Party and KCC Cllr Constantine have all asked (pretty please), asked again, set out various plans of action, then made demands, etc. SW and our MP’s have given commitments that they’ve reneged upon or lied about. All we have left is to protest.
      As for £££’s for infrastructure, yes it’ll cost but the money is there. SW just need to re-direct it from bosses bonuses and shareholder dividends to necessary works. It will take years with co-ordination on various fronts but, at this time, there is no sign of even thinking about beginning.
      If you have ideas to secure what we’ve failed to get so far, don’t keep them a secret.

  10. Hopefully Locals can be proactive and engage with southern water. Protest is a waste of time. No one in authority the real world cares about protests since they have been happening nearly every day for other reasons so they fail.

    Its not a secret that our outfalls are ming we need to work with SW (and pay) for our yes our cra p and surface water to be disposed Better.

    It wont be free but once the infracture project is complete, those sea swimmers won’t get a perma tan or the shilts.

    Nothing is free.Maybe the solocal labour influencers ave been planting magic money trees~ So lush.

    Just my opinion in the cra p business, more to flow ~

  11. Stop buying for f**king Tories.
    They don’t give a sh*t about the environment, they don’t give a sh*t about people’s health, they don’t give a sh*t about people’s well being.
    All they care only for money, and in recent years, they’ve shown they can’t even get that right.
    Time to get rid, and try someone else.

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