‘Absolute twaddle!’ Horningsea villagers reject claim new sewage works will be a popular day out
Villagers reacted with scorn and anger to claims from Anglian Water at a public meeting that the waste water treatment centre it plans to build on a local beauty spot could be somewhere for an enjoyable day out.
Anglian Water held an online consultation meeting with residents after announcing it had chosen Honey Hill, near Horningsea, as the place to relocate the plant from Milton. The current site will be closed to allow 8,000 houses to be built on the land as part of the new North East Cambridge district.
The meeting last Thursday (February 4) heard that up to three 26-metre high sewage digesters – double the size of the village’s church tower - as this mocked-up image from campaigners shows – will be built on a Green Belt site. But residents were told that, with landscaping and enhanced biodiversity, people could be attracted to walk nearby.
Villagers who will be living near the new sewage plant, however, branded the idea "absolute twaddle".
Horningsea resident Catherine Morris asked in a written question: “Please could you explain what an artificially landscaped, uncovered sewage works with multiple 26m high stacks can offer in the way of recreational opportunities that open countryside and agricultural land can’t?”
Karen Barclay, Anglian Water’s head of the Cambridge relocation consultation, responded that the company had been discussing “making this a more strategic green space and offering a really enjoyable space for people to enjoy the countryside”.
Who in their right mind is going to choose to go on a lovely sunny day and wander around a sewage works? They are in cloud cuckoo land.
And Anglian Water’s strategic adviser Andrew Prior said: “The vast majority of the site is arable land of low environmental quality; it’s cereals that are sprayed heavily and a monoculture. So there is a great advantage here to regenerate the whole area in terms of rewilding and enhance the footpath network.
“There’s lots of opportunities here to increase recreational abilities and the odour profile of the site will mean the footpaths will not significantly suffer from odour, which means the presence of the site will not affect recreation that way. Overall, you could see a much better increase to Green Belt quality than there is at present.”
Many residents commented online to disagree. The meeting did not allow residents to speak, but they were able to use an online chat facility and ask questions of Anglian Water.
Catherine Morris exclaimed: “You are talking absolute twaddle!”
She added afterwards: “Who in their right mind is going to choose to go on a lovely sunny day and wander around a sewage works? They are in cloud cuckoo land.
“I think they are trying to convince themselves of the merits of this project.”
Meanwhile, Hannah Dalgleish reacted with sarcasm, writing: “You’ve won me over with those impressive platitudes – walking my dog yesterday and seeing deer running around would have been SO much better with 26m of s*** steaming away next to me.”
Anglian Water claimed that any impact on the countryside views caused by the waste water plant would have to take into account the existing landscape.
Mr Prior added: “The views are going to be dependent on where the digesters are placed.
“We do need to put that in the context of existing power pylons across the site which are already prominent features… the landscape is already dominated by power cables and tall pylons.
“We are working with landscape architects to come up with a design that limits those effects.”
While he admitted the sewage digesters were “large” he said they were “not the size of Ely Cathedral,” referring to an incinerator chimney which was denied planning permission for its impact on the fen landscape. And he said digesters were not as tall as the pylons already on the site.
Chris Lindley, from the Save Honey Hill campaign, dismissed the argument that the digesters would not detract from the landscapes.
He said: “Pylons are extremely skinny and allow light through. Yes, they do spoil the landscape but they do not block out the sun. I think pylons are an accepted part of the English countryside around cities and have been for years.
“These 26m digester towers will be massive and will block out the light. The visual effect of a single digester tower must be equivalent to a hundred pylons. …and there will be multiple digester towers.”
There was also concern that Anglian Water was not considering burying the sewage digester towers underground, as is the case at the current site in Milton, and at other more modern sites such as Peacehaven in Brighton.
But an Anglian Water representative explained this was not possible due to “cost and geology”.
It emerged that groundwater levels were just five metres below the surface, making burying the digesters prohibitively expensive.
Mrs Morris said this proved the water company had “clearly chosen the wrong site” and that it should “think again” about placing the sewage works somewhere more suitable where the landscape allowed the towers to be buried underground.
Anglian Water selected the site ahead of two others shortlisted north of the A14 and west of the A10, between Milton, Impington and Landbeach.
Further consultations are due in summer and in 2022, before a development consent order is sought in 2022-23.