Letter to the Cambridge Independent in response to the Planning Inspectorate’s Advice Notes to Anglian Water.

18th May 2023

Dear Reader

In response to this paper’s article dated Wednesday, 17th May 2023, which sheds a glaring spotlight on Anglian Water’s sloppy planning application to relocate its wastewater treatment plant at Cowley Road to Honey Hill, the Save Honey Hill team would like to thank the Cambridge Independent and, in particular, Alex Spencer, for bringing this to the public’s attention.

The article made for stark reading when you consider the consequences of this huge nationally significant infrastructure project and the equally huge £227 million that Anglian Water has been allocated to pay for the relocation.

This project is about a billion-pound private water company profiteering from a move that will release land that can then be called brownfield and sold off to developers for a huge sum that its shareholders will pocket whilst the taxpayer foots the bill for the move.

The Save Honey Hill campaign has long held the opinion that due diligence has not been given to the environmental impact of said move nor to the option of the sewage plant staying where it is and, if necessary, simply being upgraded. According to the Advice Notes published by the Planning Inspectorate, the planning inspectors clearly agree.  It is the validation that we are very happy to receive, but we are not so naïve as to think the story ends there.

We will continue to press home, at every opportunity, the many wrongs of this aspiration held by Anglian Water, Cambridge City Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council and undoubtedly the university colleges who own some of the land adjacent to the Cowley Road site.

We will also continue to press home that NECAAP (North East Cambridge Area Action Plan) is not in fact sustainable because in the Local Plan there is no mention of requiring the sewage plant to move to open, arable farmland in Green Belt near Horningsea, Fen Ditton and Quy, and no mention of the associated carbon cost of doing so.  This is plainly wrong and not what the people of Cambridge and the surrounding area deserve. It is a greenwashing exercise of the highest order compounded by the fact that as the Planning Inspectorate has pointed out in its Advice Notes, “…given the focus in the application document on providing a carbon efficient wastewater treatment plant (WWTP), consideration should be given to the inclusion of a comparative assessment for reasonable alternatives, including the ‘do-nothing’ option or the provision of the upgrade at the existing WWTP. Without these the environmental benefits of the proposed development are unclear.”

Your readers are also invited to consider that producing these Development Consent Order (DCO) application documents in the first place will have made a sizeable dent in the taxpayer-funded budget Anglian Water is working to. To have ignored the PI’s initial advice that its Environmental Impact Assessment report should include the demolition of the site and to omit it from its DCO application, shows a level of either arrogance or amateurism that is incredibly disturbing when this company is being tasked with building a massive new piece of infrastructure.

But then is this such a surprise?

Anglian Water is one of a number of water companies in the UK which is regularly fined for not doing its job properly. Its business (excuse the pun) is to treat and deal with our sewage in a safe and responsible way. Time and time again we see the evidence all around our coastline and in our rivers that it is not capable of providing that fundamental service and I can only draw the same conclusion when it comes to this relocation project. It doesn’t need to relocate because the one that exists is fully functioning and has capacity (by AW’s admission); the carbon cost of the project which is as yet unknown will be massive not least because of the shedloads of concrete needed to protect the Principal Chalk Aquifer (groundwater) at Honey Hill, that construction will need to provide!

We urge everyone to visit www.savehoneyhill.org and follow instructions on how to object to this Development Consent Order application if the Planning Inspectorate accepts it at the end of this month. Anyone can have their say and this is most certainly NOT A DONE DEAL!

Catherine Morris

Save Honey Hill Campaigner and Horningsea Resident