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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape