Dan Rogerson, DEFRA Minister, visits West Berks


Dan Rogerson being interviewed by Judith Bunting, Parliamentary Candidate, Newbury and West Berks Lib Dems.

DEFRA Minister, Dan Rogerson, came to Hamstead Marshall, recently, to meet West Berkshire residents at the Elm Farm Organic Research Centre.

Judith taxed the Minister on rural broadband, Thames Water, council housing and her campaign to get proper funding to maintain lively, vibrant rural communities.

“Urban areas receive £153.47 per person more than rural areas, each year, via the current local government finance settlement. This is unreasonable,” Judith Bunting said.  “That much money could add up to a lot of additional services for local residents.”

As MP for North Cornwall Dan has a lot of sympathy for the rural funding campaign.

Save our Footpaths

As Minister for rural affairs, Dan has been an enthusiastic supporter of ramblers, footpaths and walking, overseeing the investment of £5.3m to speed the opening of the full English coastal path.  The audience at the event included members of the local Ramblers Association and the Mid and West Berks Local Access Forum, who pressed Dan on the recent withdrawal of govt funding for the Environmental Stewardship Scheme.

This withdrawal sadly threatens the future of 11 popular routes in West Berkshire, including paths at Little Hidden Farm and the Eddington Estate, near Hungerford, and circular walks at Earl’s Court Farm, near Lambourn. Judith encouraged the groups to keep lobbying West Berks Councils to work with our local landowners to encourage them to keep the routes open.

“Walking is good for health and community, she said, “Not to mention the benefits walkers bring to the village economy, in the for of pubs and restaurants!”

Good news followed, as Nic Lampkin, Director of Elm Farm Organic Research Station, stood up and confirmed that the circular walk at Elm Farm, will remain open after the Environmental Stewardship scheme comes to an end. (See: https://judithbunting.co.uk/2014/11/17/good-news-for-ramblers/.)


Discussion during the evening also covered actions against flooding this winter, including cracked sewers along the Lamborn and Pang Valleys, in Newbury Centre, Woolhampton and East Ilsley, and how we can make Thames Water act to remedy the problem. Dan has promised to help me get access to the highest levels of the Environment Agency, to fund out what they are doing to ensure Thames Water live up to their commitments.

We also covered the problems suffered in West Berkshire villages with rural broadband; and the need to renew the council house building scheme in West Berkshire and across the country – an idea which received warm applause around the room.

Flooding – Report on meeting with Andrew Hagger, Thames Water



Report after my meeting with Andrew Hagger, Thames Water wastewater engineer for West Berkshire – Judith Bunting.

July 3, 2014 11:13 PM
Judith Bunting, in Compton, with Andrew Hagger, Thames Water
Judith Bunting with Andrew Hagger, ThamesWater, examining an offending manhole cover in Horn Street, Compton

Recently, I took residents’ concerns about the foul-water flooding that took place, during last winter’s floods, to Andrew Haggar, Thames Water wastewater engineer for West Berkshire.

We all know that groundwater conditions, last winter, were extraordinary. What I wanted to find out from Andrew, was why so much groundwater got into Thames Water‘s sewage system, that foulwater spewed back out of manhole covers and interior fittings. People suffered these issues across West Berks, from Lambourn and East Garston to East Ilsley and Compton, taking in significant sections of Newbury, notably Northcroft Lane and Shaw, along the way.

Laying larger sewers is not the answer. Foulwater pipes are, perhaps, surprisingly narrow (6″ – 9″ diameter), but normal sewage flow is surprisingly low volume. 1,000 homes produces, on average, a flow of just 1 litre per second. (Apparently we can be relied upon to flush in rotation.) Standard pipes are big enough for the job, so long as only waste is flowing through. The problems come when the system is flooded with groundwater.

When this happens, we must be clear: It is the system that’s at fault, not the ground water.

If the sewage system is functioning properly, our ground should be able to flood all around the pipes, every day of the year, with no adverse consequence. We deserve to be secure in the knowledge that we will never see sewage in the streets or in our gardens. We should be confident, in twenty first century Britain, that we can flush, even when it rains.

I am pleased to say, that Thames Water now seem to accept the fact that their pipes should not experience ingress of ground water however wet it gets.

Shaw residents speaking with Catherine Bearder MEP and Judith Bunting
Earlier with year, introducing residents who suffered severe problems in Shaw, Newbury, to MEP Catherine Bearder

Key Questions

With all this in mind, my chief question to Andrew Haggar today was the same as has been asked by many people I met at the time:

  • How is groundwater getting into your system?
  • What you doing to stop it happening?

These may seem blindingly obvious questions, but I met people with infiltration problems in this area, in the late nineteen eighties. It beggars belief that the same problems are still happening, today.

How does the water get in?

Being an engineer, Andrew gave a satisfyingly clear answers – he was willing to put a few figures on it, as well. Water gets into the foul water system in 3 ways:

  • 20% gets in through cracks in the pipe and leaking joints
  • 70% gets in through inundation through manhole covers, through vents, and through the walls of unsealed inspection chambers.
  • 10% is put into the system by members of the public, seeking to get rid of floodwaters. People do not always realise that ifthey pour their floodwater into the foul-water drain, their neighbours may find foul-water pouring out of their loo and on totheir floor.
Judith Bunting with Andrew Hagger, Thames Water, at Compton Pond, Horn St and Wallingford Rd

Actions Underway

You will be able to get detailed reports on Thames Water‘s works, in your area, from the relevant flood forums, in due course. For now I can report the following:

  • In Lambourn: relining will begin very shortly. The Council is negotiating re traffic management during the works.
  • In Eastbury: the public sewers were relined ~2004. This process involved pushing a Neoprene ‘sock’ down the sewers, which was then cured into place with a chemical gel. The effect was a fresh, non-stick sewers, with no cracks.
  • In East Garston: relining work, ~2004, began at the bottom of the village, working up the valley from the pumping station.
  • In East Ilsley: The camera inspection of the village pipes, promised at East Ilsley’s Parish Council meeting, has now finished. Pipes were examined from West Ilsley, across the fields and down to the East Ilsley pumping station. These pictures are now being reviewed, to locate defects.
  • In Compton: key manholes are begin sealed. I alerted Andrew Hagger to the ingress of water through the walls of the inspectionchamber, on Horn Lane, as reported to me by resident, Ian Hickling. Andrew has taken note, and will look into the
    possibility of sealing this chamber. This is done by injecting resin into the walls.
  • The aim is for work in both Lambourn and Pang Valleys to be completed by October 2014.
  • In Newbury: Thames Water were somewhat surprised to hear about foul water egress in Shaw and the Northcroft Lane area. I was glad to share your experiences and my photos.

Manhole Covers

Manhole covers and inspection chambers are particular issue. Vents are required to allow the inevitable gases to escape from the system, but Thames now seems to be taking a pragmatic view to this, however, which pleases me: They are sealing the vents on low lying manhole covers, and leaving them open on manhole in higher ground.

Foul water egress from manhole at Newport Rd and Pike St, Shaw
Foul-water egress from manhole cover, Newport Rd and Pike St, Newbury, February 2014

New Homes

Perhaps surprisingly, water companies have no right to object to any planning application – they are not statutory planning authorities. They do try to make it clear when development may cause a problem. If a development is large, new sewers will be built. Brownfield developments, it seems, can actually improve local sewage flow, because their use often involves reopening old, closed, sections of foul-water pipe.

Note: If you have photos of foul-water problems suffered during winter 2013/2014, send the to me atjudithbuntingld@gmail.com and I will send them on to Thames Water.

Judith Bunting at Swan Court, Northcroft Lane, Feb 2014