Sewers row delays decision on new Sunderland housing development in Seaburn

A row over sewers has put the brakes on a controversial scheme to build more than 60 homes in Seaburn.

Thursday, 16th January 2020, 4:45 pm
Updated Friday, 17th January 2020, 11:45 am
View from South Bents Avenue, Seaburn. Picture c/o Google Streetview.

City leaders approved proposals to develop the land north of Seaburn Camp in 2019, despite the fears of about 500 objectors over issues including traffic and loss of green space.

But an error on a map provided by Northumbrian Water has threatened to derail the application after builders were forced to overhaul their sewer and drainage plans for the site.

Conservative opposition councillor James Doyle, who spoke on behalf of opponents, said: “I have fought for an adequate network and I am convinced of the impact this over-capacity network is having – 370,000 tonnes of effluent discharged into the sea every year is not a good state of affairs.

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Councillor Doyle was concerns of the implications if the council or Northumbrian Water ‘got it wrong’.

He said: “Homes flooded with sewage? More sewage in the sea? A stench hanging around almost permanently?”

Coun Doyle was speaking at a meeting of Sunderland City Council’s Planning and Highways Committee, of which he is not a member.

Despite concerns raised about potential capacity issues with the sewage system, the panel was repeatedly told Northumbrian Water did not consider this a problem.

Connections to the drainage network in the area is regulated by the water firm, which apologised for its previous error and approved revised plans for the 64-home development.

Stephen Wharton, an area manager for Northumbrian Water, told the panel: “My modelling determines the capacity and in that part of the network we can allow connection without affecting people being served by that sewer.

“The fact this sewer operates during storm situations, allowing overflows to discharge, is something in addition to supporting a connection for domestic flows.”

He added: “We have a permit to discharge into the environment during storms and that is part of a working sewage network.”

However, the committee was not satisfied with the explanations provided, prompting Liberal Democrat councillor Martin Haswell to propose deferring a decision pending a request to Miller Homes, the applicant behind the plans, to fund an independent survey.

A representative of the house builder who attended the meeting said the firm did not ‘in principle have a problem’ with the possibility of funding a new survey.

But he also questioned what the point of such a survey would be in light of assurances made by Northumbrian Water.

Labour’s Coun Denny Wilson called for a survey to challenge the ‘very serious allegations’ and protect the ‘millions’ invested by the council and others at the seafront.

All members of the committee voted in favour of a deferment, except Coun Mel Speding and Coun Paul Stewart.