More than 100 people attend meeting headed by clean water campaigner Feargal Sharkey and Green Party peer Jenny Jones

Feargal Sharkey and Jenny Jones Photo Steven Collis

More than 100 people turned out for a meeting last night (February 24) in Ramsgate with guest speakers former punk band frontman turned environmentalist Feargal Sharkey and Green Party peer Jenny Jones.

The gathering at The Modern Boulangerie in Harbour Street discussed sewer discharges by Southern Water into Thanet’s coast and other waterways.

Feargal and Jenny with Green councillors Tricia Austin and Mike Garner Photo Steven Collis

Thanet Green Party organised the event amid growing anger over discharges polluting the sea and the damaging impact on the environment and businesses reliant on the tourist trade.

Photo Steven Collis

The event was headed by Jenny Jones, a former archaeologist who was a Green Party member of the London Assembly from its creation in 2000 until standing down in 2016, and Feargal Sharkey, who was the lead for band The Undertones and has become a prominent and effective campaigner against pollution of our rivers and coastline.

Photo Steven Collis

Speaking before the start of the meeting Baroness Jones said: “This is all about information and a shared purpose, it is really good to know that other people care about this.

“The water companies are being let off, they should not be giving hand-outs to senior staff and shareholders until there are improvements to infrastructure and those discharges are brought right down to a tiny level or stopped entirely.

Photo Steven Collis

“The water companies call them storm outfalls but they are simply discharges at any time of the day or night.

“We have to make sure they are fined properly and that they have to be part of the clean ups.

“It is Green Party policy that that we should renationalise something so precious so it will not be in the hands of people making a profit.”

Photo David Stillman

Baroness Jones said water companies had been ordered by government in September to produce a plan for cleaning up their act within 14 days. She said 167 days later and still no plans had been produced, while discharges continued.

Feargal Sharkey said five years ago he set up his twitter account and was initially “shouting at the moon” but now people across the country are voicing opposition to the spills into coastlines and waterways.

He said: “Over the last two years water companies have spent almost six million hours dumping sewage into the environment across England and Wales. Oversight has been almost non-existent.”

Photo Steven Collis

Slamming the ‘mediocracy’ of regulators such as Ofwat the campaigner said: “All that needs to be done is that existing law that has been on statute for 30 years needs to be enforced.

“All that needs to happen is the regulatory framework that we have is used to hold water companies to account. We need government to act.”

Both speakers said people across the country were now making their anger known and  telling government, water companies and regulators that they would not stand for the pollution any longer.

Photo Steven Collis

Green Party leader Mike Garner said: “It was great to see so many people there. Feargal Sharkey and Jenny Jones spoke with a lot of passion about the ongoing sewage issues created by Southern Water and energised all who were there to continue the fight to stop it.”

In January MPs, including South Thanet’s Craig Mackinlay, voted in favour The Draft Environmental Targets Regulations which sets legally binding targets to tackle water pollution. However, the draft has been widely criticised as allowing another 15 years of sewage pollution before measures come into force.

Photo Steven Collis

In Thanet discharges in 2021 shut down the majority of the isle’s beaches in June and October.

Last November Kent Wildlife Trust volunteers were forced to cancel a wildlife survey after Southern Water waste releases into the coast at Margate and Fulsam Rock. Releases were made from both the short and long sea outfall pipes and pumped into the ocean off the coast of Margate following heavy rainfall.

In December last year and January and February this year there were also water outages at properties mainly in Broadstairs and Ramsgate areas.

Photo Steven Collis

The issues prompted Thanet Green Party to call for a halt to all housing developments across the isle until significant improvements have been made to Southern Water’s infrastructure. Green Cllr Abi Smith has also put forward a motion requesting more involvement from Southern Water and the Environment Agency when planning applications for large developments are lodged.

Photo Steven Collis

Southern Water has been invited to attend an overview and scrutiny meeting at Thanet council on March 14 to explain the issue of the outages, how this is being dealt with and an explanation over the inconsistencies of compensation, longer term plans for water supply and infrastructure improvements and a request to supply further information for the supply of proposed housing developments.

There will also be a call for Southern Water representatives to hold a public meeting to explain why the outages happened and their plans to ensure supply is not interrupted in future.

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  1. An honour to hear this superb campaigner and remember change is possible, even when 💩 is being pumped all around

    • Hope you’ll be joining all those campaigning and doing their best. (I don’t know if you were at the meeting because you’re shy about your identity.) If you have immediate solutions in mind please share them; the campaigners will listen.

  2. I would like to say that I used to be a person that would say how safe it was to swim in our sea in Thanet as we had so many blue flags , little did I realise we were all having the wool pulled over our eyes. This is disgusting that water companies can charge us to treat our waste water but in reality they are pumping it straight into our ocean without treatment and they can still sleep at night and hold there heads high

  3. There are hundreds of drains in streets all around Thanet that are completely silted up from lack of roadsweeping and litter.Much of the rainfall doesnt reach its destination.How can our local councils get away with this.I reported 14 silted drains in two streets near my home and one year later not a thing has been done to remedy this.Souther Water Kent CC and TDC are alk to blame.Stop peddling your Green credentials….you have none.

    • David, Thanet Green Party got its first District Councillors elected just a few years ago. They now have four Cllr’s and hope to get more in the Council elections this May.
      Since being elected each Green Cllr has worked extremely hard in questioning the Council and the way it disregards residents and is so secretive about how and where it uses our money. They also do a great deal in their wards and beyond like preventing casual tree felling, objecting to building development profiteering, working with food banks, litter clearing, protecting heritage sites, planting flowers and trees, demanding proper scrutiny, plus individual case work, etc.
      Ordinary members and the Central Harbour Cllr’s have organised and participated in SOSRamsgate from its inception. Our Party Leader has written many times to Southern Water challenging their inactivity snd criminal behaviour.
      It’s not about “green credentials” but about trying to improve the lives of those who live here, who ever they are and however they vote.
      But…with four Cllr’s it’s impossible to have the impact necessary to secure widespread change. To do this voters need to vote for Cllr’s who will support change, not just vote according to their party line. Voting Green is one way of getting this, another is looking at the voting and meeting attendence record of Cllr’s and choosing someone who does more than shine their seat.

    • With only two roadsweepers in Ramsgate since austerity cuts they barely have time to collect all the litter let alone clearing the drains!

  4. Well done Feargal Sharkey, he’s a good man & has been on about this for years – and a good heart these days is hard to find.

  5. Southern Water certainly could do with some Teenage Kicks. Poo in the sea, just another Brexit benefit, ahh the smell of sunlight uplands.

      • Yes, the UK known previously as ‘the dirty man of Europe’ before joining the EU, already a poor record of discharging raw sewage into the sea. However things have got way worse after Brexit because once outside the union previous trade deals ended and meant water companies experienced supply chain issues had considerably less access to the chemicals required to test the sewage before discharge.

        Even Boris Johnson’s father Stanley Johnson has gone on record to say the issue is due to Brexit. He even said this whilst his own son was PM and the man responsible for the disastrous Brexit deal.

  6. Water companies are own by mostly hedge funds, pension funds etc. They are responsible to giving their clients the best returns they can. That is their 100% concern. To spend as little as possible to reward the shareholders and to fund the tory party.

    Thanet is a tory stronghold so supports this.

    Thanks Thatcher.

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