The Julie et Jim Power Cut Show

I discovered at around 9:55 this morning that Julie Skentelbery was going to be interviewing Scott Mann, our local Conservative MP here in North Cornwall, on her BBC Radio Cornwall programme a few minutes later.

More in hope than expectation I dialled the number that had just been announced and mentioned that I had already asked Scott some questions about the recent power cuts via email, but had yet to receive an answer.

Advance to around 19 minutes 45 seconds into the recording of Julie’s show on BBC Sounds to discover what happened thereafter:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p0bl94m0

The recording is also available to download via the BBC Sounds mobile app.

Note that one of the points Scott made was that “storage is the problem”.

Hear, hear Scott!

Yours truly,

Jim in Davidstow

More Pollution on North Cornwall Beaches

Another downpour last night has resulted in all too familiar news this morning. Here’s the NetWeather.TV rain radar view of Cornwall at 9 PM last night:

Davidstow is under all that rain dropping cloud somewhere! This morning there are flood warnings in place for North Devon, and flood alerts across North Cornwall:

What’s more the Surfers Against Sewage map reveals that nearly all the beaches in North Cornwall also have water quality warnings in place:

The little low tide “beach” at Trebarwith Strand is currently clear, but Watergate Bay is not.

[Edit – October 26th]

Here is Baroness Jones from the Green Party explaining the problem on BBC Newsnight:

[Edit – October 28th]

The heavens have opened over North Cornwall yet again:

As a seemingly inevitable consequence flood alerts have now been issued for the middle and upper River Tamar, amongst other places:

P.S. The heavy rain has continued:

Flood warnings have now been issued for several rivers just over the border into Devon:

According to the Environment Agency: Flooding is expected. Act now!

A flood warning means you need to act: flooding is expected. You should do all the actions for a flood alert, but also:

  • move vehicles to higher ground if it’s safe to do so
  • move family and pets to safety
  • move important items upstairs or to a safe place in your property, starting with cherished items and valuables, then furniture and furnishings
  • turn off gas, electricity and water supplies if it’s safe to do so; never touch an electrical switch if you’re standing in water
  • if you have property protection products such as flood barriers, or air brick covers, use them now
  • keep track of the latest flood risk situation

[Edit – October 30th]

This seems to be the meat of the letter I received from Scott Mann MP a couple of days ago:

The facts are that we have a combined sewer system in this country, meaning rainwater and sewage both flow into it. This means that heavy rain and storms can lead to additional pressure on the system that needs to be released”. lt is not a coincidence that discharges happen most often during or after a storm. lf this pressure is not discharged the wastewater – including sewage – will back up into the streets and into people’s homes. This is not hyperbolic; it is a fact. The age of this Victorian sewerage system means that the complete elimination of storm overflows would be extremely challenging. Unfortunately, they have always been a part of our wastewater infrastructure and until now little action has been taken by any government or party.

One of the recent amendments in the Lords would have required work to be done to eliminate sewage discharges, and I was one of several hundred MPs who opposed it. Initial estimates of the work necessary to achieve this are in the region of £150 billion and upwards. To put that in perspective, this is more than the entire budget of the NHS. These costs would inevitably be passed onto taxpayers or water bill payers. No sensible legislator could have backed this. I am of the view that the water companies should foot the bill for improvements over time and not the taxpayer, so these improvements must be manageable.

That rather begs the question about where we would be now if the necessary improvements had been started a decade or two ago? And indeed what the actual cost would be in today’s day and age!

[Edit – November 1st]

This tweet from Professor Dieter Helm seems apposite at this juncture?

[Edit – November 3rd]

After almost continuous heavy rain, hopefully the end is in sight for the current series of pollution incidents on the beaches of North Cornwall. Several beaches are not being monitored at this time of year, but currently Widemouth Bay and Trevone are the only ones still marked in red on the Surfers Against Sewage water quality map:

Hopefully those two will get the all clear tomorrow

[Edit – November 5th]

In answer to my question above about “the actual cost of the necessary improvements to the UK’s ageing sewage infrastructure”, the Government has just announced:

An independent research project that considers options, costs and benefits for reducing storm sewage discharges in England.

Reducing sewage discharges from storm overflows is an important priority to protect the environment.

This research, the first assessment of its kind, was commissioned by the Storm Overflows Taskforce – made up of Defra, the Environment Agency, Ofwat, CCW, Blueprint for Water and Water UK – and funded by Water UK.

The independent research, carried out by Stantec, presents a detailed overview of potential approaches that will act as an important evidence base for government action.

The Storm Overflows Taskforce will now consider the report and its recommendations to:

  • support the development of the best mix of policy solutions
  • inform the government plan on storm overflows to be published in September 2022.

The report itself evaluates the costs and benefits of a range of scenarios. The methodology used is summarised like this:

The policies tested consider the universal implementation of permits to control storm overflow spill frequency to an average of either 40, 20, 10, 5 or 0 (zero) times per year (named F40, F20, F10, F5 and F0, respectively).

Three scenarios are also considered, describing the engineering approach used to deliver policies. The first relies on a conventional approach to capture spills from storm overflows using network storage (W) which is sized sufficiently to capture spills and allow for these to slowly return to the sewer network for treatment.

The other two augment the conventional approach with partly or wholly nature-based technologies (retrofitted SuDS) at two levels: 10 percent of impermeable area controlled (S10) and 50 percent of impermeable area controlled (S50). In this context, controlled means that these flows do not enter the combined sewer system. The SuDS solutions are implemented in addition to sewer network storage; therefore creating mixed grey-green solutions. The S10 level of SuDS is at a modest level across the catchment, whilst the S50 level is at a high level. Controlling runoff from 50% of impermeable area (S50) is broadly equivalent to preventing all highway runoff entering combined sewers in a fully combined catchment.

The costs of the various approaches are summarised in the following infographic:

There seem to be a wide range of available options that cost considerably less than £150 billion, and that’s before accounting for the associated benefits.



Covid-19 Lockdown “Lifted” in Cornwall

As the editor of Davidstow.info on Monday May 11th I wrote to Scott Mann, the Member of Parliament for North Cornwall, to express this view:

How on Earth does HM Government expect Devon and Cornwall Police to enforce the rules that from Wednesday “Driving from London to surf” in North Cornwall is OK but then “staying in a tent, B&B, hotel or second home” is punishable by an increased fine?

What if somebody drives down from up country in a traditional VW “surf bus” for example, and kips in the back for a few nights?

Scott Mann’s Parliamentary Assistant replied on his behalf as follows:

It would not be permissible for someone to travel down in a camper and stay the night.

In any case, the Government is largely relying on the public’s common sense – the regulations are there to provide some clarity. It is not, to my mind or yours I imagine, a good idea for people to travel across the UK and risk spreading this disease! Hopefully the public can deploy sufficient common sense for it not to be too great an issue.

The police are doing a brilliant job of enforcing these restrictions, and from following their social media I can see they have taken numerous actions to prevent people from breaking the regulations. Whilst they cannot stop everybody, they can certainly act as a disincentive.

I hope this helps.

Subsequently the Davidstow.info Twitter feed expressed this sentiment yesterday morning:

Yesterday we also reported the following:

Q.E.D. Scott and Selaine?

Davidstow Parish Council September Meeting

I attended the meeting of Davidstow Parish Council in Tremail Methodist Hall yesterday, where much discussion took place regarding the plans by Dairy Crest to invest £85£75 million in their creamery at the top of the hill. The odours apparently still emanating from the Dairy Crest water treatment plant also got a good airing!

The Chairman of the Parish Council mentioned that there had been a meeting of the Davidstow Residents Action Group (DRAG) on August 2nd to discuss that issue:

Scott Mann, the M.P. for North Cornwall, had been in attendance, but the Environment Agency and our local County Councillor Rob Rotchell had not.

A resident of Trewassa reported that due to the easterly winds over the preceding weekend the smell had been “awful” on that side of the plant. The chairman said that Dairy Crest had attempted to implement “6 solutions that haven’t worked” and reported that the Environment Agency had given Dairy Crest 6 weeks to provide an explanation for the latest odious odours.

Getting back to Dairy Crest’s expansion plans, Reuters reported back in May that:

The company said it would expand its cheese production facility at Davidstow, in southwest England to 77,000 tonnes from 54,000 tonnes a year by raising cash through a share placement.

It would place 14.1 million ordinary shares, or about 9.98 percent of current issued shares, at a price of 495 pence per share.

The cost of the expansion is expected to be 85 million pounds and will be carried out over the next four to five years, Dairy Crest said.

Dairy Crest have employed the services of St. Austell based consultancy Situ8 to handle the planning issues associated with the expansion. Situ8’s Angela Warwick was at the meeting, and she explained that whilst plans for upgrades to the creamery itself were well advanced nothing could be implemented until the waste water treatment plant was upgraded and the current issues solved. Plans for that are less advanced it seems.

In addition there are also plans to construct a solar photovoltaic “farm” near the “cheese factory” as it is frequently referred to locally. There will be a consultation with Dairy Crest in Camelford on September 21st to discuss all this in greater detail.

Watch this space for more news as and when we receive it!

 

[Edit – September 8th]

I received the following letter in today’s post. It seems Reuters neglected to mention that “£75 million of which will be spent in Davidstow” regarding the planned investment by Dairy Crest.

Dear Mr Hunt,

I am writing with reference to two matters – firstly to update you on works to alleviate the odour emissions and secondly with regard to our planned investment at Davidstow.

As you know, permanent covers were fitted to two of the tanks at the Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) at the beginning of this year. The initial results following the installation were good, indicating a substantial reduction in odours, as we had expected. Since then, we have had some further challenges due to the build-up of sludge in one of the covered tanks. lt has taken some time to safely remove this accumulation but the works have now been completed. Additional work is now being undertaken with an external consultant to check what further improvements can be made.

I am also writing to you about our recent announcement to undertake an £85 million investment to increase our cheese production capacity and improve our environmental credentials, £75 million of which will be spent in Davidstow.

This is a long term project which is expected to take place over the course of the next four to five years and will involve a small amount of additional construction on the site. A major part of this project is to make further investment in the WWTP to improve its efficacy and minimise the potential for it to impact on you, our neighbours. We will be installing new equipment, inside a process building, which will reduce the load on the current plant and thereby the potential for odour issues to occur. We also intend to develop a solar installation to generate electricity for our own consumption, thereby reducing the load on the local grid as well as reducing the site’s carbon footprint.

This investment is also good news for our 330 supplying dairy farmers, all of whom are in Devon and Comwall, and our 200 employees at Davidstow. Our existing farmers will be able to invest in their businesses and it will secure jobs at the creamery, thereby having a positive impact on economic activity in the region.

Please find enclosed an invitation to a public consultation regarding our intention to submit an application for planning permission for these projects. This will take place on Friday, 21 September from 4pm to 7.30pm at Camelford Hall, Clease Road, Camelford PL32 9QX.

We would encourage you to come to this event so that you can learn more about the proposals directly from us and so that we can answer any questions you may have. All the feedback we gather will be used to inform the planning proposals.

Yours sincerely,

Mark Evans

Site Director, Davidstow Creamery