Lagoons darken village horizon: Residents are enlisting EC help to stave off plans for a sewage sludge repository. William Goodacre reports

ALONG a bleak stretch of the Suffolk coast, on the southern bank of the Alde estuary, the residents of the scattered village of Iken (population: 80) have been waging a battle against Anglian Water for the last 18 months.

They fiercely object to the proposed siting in their midst of a couple of 400,000-gallon sludge lagoons, designed for the recycling of human effluent. They have lobbied organisations from the Suffolk Preservation Society to the Department for the Environment, without persuading Anglian Water to rethink.

It appears, however, that the European Commission may intervene on their behalf. The campaigners have just received a letter from Brussels outlining concerns that the proposal may contravene EC directives designed to prevent pollution.

Allen Heyman, a local resident and lawyer, has studied the relevant EC legislation and considers it to be 'good and tight'. He hopes the involvement of Brussels may cause Anglian Water to think again: 'The EC has a discretion which cannot be avoided in the UK courts.'

Ironically, it was as a result of another EC environmental ruling, the Urban Wastewater Directive, that Anglian Water was forced to consider the construction of the lagoons in the first place.

According to this directive it will no longer be possible after 1998 to dump sludge at sea, which is where, at present, about 10 per cent of Anglian Water's processed sewage ends up.

Glynn Eastman, divisional services manager for Anglian Water, said: 'I can see we're dealing with a highly emotive product here. When people think of sludge, they think of untreated human effluent. In fact, what we're proposing to pump into the lagoons has already been fully broken down at the sewage treatment works.'

Alan Coombes, chairman of the parochial council in Iken, is sympathetic to the principle of recycling sewage and turning potential pollutants into an agricultural resource. What he objects to is the siting of these two sludge lagoons so close to residential dwellings and in the middle of a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. 'I can see there are strong reasons to build up the body of the arable land in this area, particularly since this sludge is so high in the necessary nitrates. But, as local residents, we have three main objections, First, there is the problem of increased traffic bringing the sludge from the sewage works to the lagoons along some extremely narrow country lanes. Then we are worried about the archaeological implications of the lagoon construction, particularly on one of the sites (St Botolph is thought to have founded a monastery in Iken in the 9th century). Finally there is the problem of smell.'

Anglian Water has agreed to work alongside experts to ensure that no major archaeological finds are missed; it would also build passing places to ease any traffic congestion in the surrounding network of lanes; and it claims there would be no problem with smell. The two sites Anglian Water has identified are a little over 400 metres from the nearest house. According to a special 'permitted right', this is the minimum distance at which certain developments on agricultural land become exempt from the need to apply for planning permission. Mr Coombes, however, sees the proximity to the village as a problem: 'Smells simply do not stop at 400 metres, There definitely will be times with smells.'

The planning exemption has particularly angered several pressure group representatives, including Lady Rachel Bridges, vice-president of the Suffolk Preservation Society. She is confident that, had Anglian Water approached the planning authority it would have been turned down: 'By using their 'permitted right' they have shown contempt for the views of the local people and the wider environmental implications of their lagoons.'

Each side seems to be claiming the environmental high ground. Opponents fear the lagoons will seriously damage the quality of the landscape, while the water company argues the environmental merits of recycling waste, pointing out that those farmers who use sewage sludge are able largely to dispense with the use of chemical fertilisers.

Richard Mann, on whose land the proposed sewage lagoons would be situated, sees the local opposition a little differently: 'They go spouting on about green issues and about organic farming, but the fact is, when it comes down to it, they just don't want to know. They've spent a lot of money buying their weekend retreats, and now they find the thought of these sludge lagoons threatening for their way of life, It's because they're so used to organising people that they think they can come in here and tell us farmers what to do.'

Mr Coombes admits to a certain amount of friction between 'the newcomers' and the traditional farming community: 'Of course, they sold us these places when they were desperate for cash and now they're not, they'd love to get rid of us.'

But he added: 'The more you look into this, the more you see how the proposed lagoons contravene what the Government has stated as good practice.'

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?