Letter to Feargal Sharkey
12 February 2021
Via Terry Macalister
Isn’t life the darndest? If someone had said to me back in 1978, as a fifteen-year-old girl watching you perform Teenage Kicks on Top of the Pops, that I’d be writing to you 43 years later about chalk streams and chalk aquifers, I’d have said they were off their trolley!
But there we are, life offers up many twists and never quite turns out how you might expect. And that is where I and the village on the outskirts of Cambridge where I live, find ourselves….in a position now where we are faced with the prospect of Cambridge’s wastewater treatment (sewage) plant being relocated to our doorstep, slap bang in the middle of our endangered Green Belt.
What, you are asking yourself, has this got to do with you? Well, not only is the proposed location for Anglian Water’s (AW) Wastewater Treatment Plant relocation just a few hundred metres from my village boundary on Green Belt between the villages of Horningsea and Fen Ditton (NNE of Cambridge), at a site popularly known as Honey Hill. It is also a piece of land which according to Defra’s Magic Maps, is a Principal Chalk Aquifer with high risk (red alert) to groundwater contamination. AW themselves admitted at a recent webinar that the aquifer is a mere 5 metres below the surface meaning that all of the associated structures that would normally be sunk below ground cannot be, leaving us with multiple 26-metre-high tanks to look at in what is an extremely flat, open and exposed landscape. The visual impact of this is obvious but what is of more concern to me personally and I hope to you, is the very real and impending danger this siting poses to the aquifer if, as is highly likely over time either through degradation of the site or manmade accident, contaminant seeps down in to it. I should also say at this point, that the proposed site is a stone’s throw from Quy Fen, a site of special scientific interest and the lay of the land is such that any said contamination that might occur would flow downhill towards Horningsea, Quy Fen and a number of local residents who still get their water from wells.
Now I don’t need to tell you anything about chalk aquifers, streams and the River Cam – I attended your recent webinar and if it wasn’t so shocking and scary, I could say I enjoyed it immensely. It was clear, concise, straight-talking and you certainly didn’t sugar coat the dire situation we find ourselves in here in our region with regard to our chalk streams and the Rivers Cam and Granta. You know far more than I about these matters which I am hoping will lead you to the conclusion that you must in whatever way you can offer up some advice or comment that we can maybe use to our advantage here in our upcoming battle to stop this relocation.
Because a battle of huge proportions it will indeed be. The momentum already behind this project feels slightly overwhelming as our campaign group (Save Honey Hill) grapples with the enormity of the task at hand. At a meeting last night, we formally agreed that our focus must be to stop AW from relocating to Honey Hill whilst in parallel working to mitigate against it if we fail. The driver for this relocation is the North East Cambridge Area Action Plan (NECAAP), a development being pushed forward by the City and County Councils to provide what they say is much needed housing and commercial/office space. This development was conceived long before Covid and many people in Cambridge now believe this development along with many others which are being steamrollered through, should be paused and reassessed in light of the change to our working and living practices post-Covid. There is a growing sense, thanks in no small part to your campaign I believe, that Cambridge cannot sustain the huge amount of development that is being thrust upon it; I learned last night that we already have to have water from the Midlands pumped in to keep up with current demand.
And so, to conclude, I am writing to you in the hope that you might feel able to get in touch in some way to offer your support to our campaign. I don’t really know what else I can hope to ask of you but if there is anything you can offer that you think might be useful to our cause it would be an incredible boost to receive.
Horningsea Resident and Save Honey Hill Campaigner
Still awaiting a response.