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The Welney Website

Proposed Welney-Christchurch Sewage scheme

page created & first posted 10th Oct 2007; last updated Tuesday, 18 November 2014
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In 2007 Anglian Water Services proposed the construction of a Sewage Treatment Works on the north side of the Old Croft River at Tipps End as part of their plan to provide first-time sewerage for the villages of Welney and Christchurch.

This report was originally posted as a personal view by the Welney Webmaster, Peter Cox, a resident of Tipps End. I tried to bring together as much information and as many facts as I and other residents could establish to allow residents to come to their own conclusions. Views expressed were entirely my own (unless clearly stated otherwise) and did not necessarily represent those of any group or other individuals.  

I tried to be impartial but if I failed it is probably because I was not overjoyed at the prospect of having a four acre sewage works, for the benefit of other people miles away, thrust into the open landscape just 500 yards from home.


Public Awareness

The general public in Tipps End and Lakes End, on both sides of the county/borough/parish borders were unaware of the proposal until an eagle-eyed Tipps End resident (Ann Wood, late of the Old Chapel) spotted a small Public Notice in the "Fenland Citizen" issued by the Environment Agency (EA) advising that Anglian Water Services Ltd (AWS) had applied for consent to discharge treated sewage effluent into the Old Croft River.

Many residents were aware that a first-time-sewerage scheme for Welney and Christchurch has been talked of since at least 2001, and some may have heard that works were due to start in 2008; but the proposed location of the treatment works had not been made generally known. I believe many assumed it would be in the vast open space to the north-west of Tipps End.

The proposed scheme

The application was to discharge treated sewage effluent from a proposed reservoir (which AW called a treatment works) into the Old Croft River at grid reference TL 5127 9521 near what is locally known as Moden's Drove.
location map
location of discharge point and probable site of lagoons/"treatment works"

10th October 2007. Looking west along the Old Croft River from the track ("Moden's Drove") off March Road almost opposite Laburnham Cottage. Partially treated effluent would be discharged into the river about 50m along on the right. The river was covered in algae at the time and and no flow was perceptible. (Photo: Peter Cox)
The following volumes & flow rates were quoted:
  • up to 613 m3/d (cubic metres per day)
  • dry weather flow of discharge(s): 236 m3/d
  • average daily flow: 295 m3/d
  • maximum rate of discharge(s): 7.1 l/s (litres per second)

a similar twin-lagoon scheme at Errol in Scotland
The proposed works were
  • to serve a combined population of 1,048 people in Welney and Christchurch.
  • an "Aero-Fac" lagoon system, AWS's "preferred treatment solution",  which they claimed was environmentally sustainable; wind powered; low odour; and would produce reduced quantities of sludge.
The application to the EA was
  • also to assess the viability of using this technology at this site or whether another type of treatment should be provided. (Phosphate content was an important factor)


For the record, the chronology was:
  • 14th Aug - date of the application by AWS to discharge treated effluent into the Old Croft River
  • 20th Aug - application received by the EA
  • 21st Aug - the Clerk to Welney Parish Council (WPC) reported her conversation with the AWS land-agent, Mr Dick Prescott of Savills. (see below, under Extracts of Minutes of WPC).
  • 12th Sept - date of a Public Notice issued by the EA
  • 19th Sept - Public notice appeared in the Fenland Citizen. Any "representations" to be received by EA by 31st Oct
  • 21st Sept - a small group of concerned residents formed an "Action Group" and began making enquiries.
  • 2nd Oct - Action Group put their concerns to the Welney Parish Council during public participation at a WPC monthly meeting. They asked if the Council knew about the proposal. I understand that the Group were shocked at the extreme rudeness of one Councillor and generally rather disappointed by the reactions of the Chairman and Clerk. The Council did eventually agree to put the matter on the agenda for their November meeting - after the deadline for representations to the EA. There was some confusion about the exact date of the Council's November meeting - see below.
  • 8th Oct - Action Group held an open meeting in Welney Parish Hall attended by 60 residents of Tipps End and Lakes End. There were apologies for absence from several others
  •  11th Oct - Action Group met AWS & EA officials at Tipps End to discuss the application, preferred treatment scheme & view the proposed sites.
  • 15th Oct - Action Group second public meeting at Welney Parish Hall with speakers from AWS and the EA. 70 people attended.
  • 23rd Oct - One resident reports that the level of Old Croft has risen considerably, and another reports a machine working near the proposed discharge point. Strange?
  • 31st Oct - deadline for receipt of representations about the AWS application to the EA in Brampton. next meeting of Welney Parish Council? I've been getting confused about this, but it seems I'm not the only one. The action Group believe it will be on Tuesday 7th Nov. The Council's recent flyer states it will be on Wednesday 7th. Do they mean Wednesday 8th, or Tuesday 7th?.


The Action Group

 As you can see above, the group took their concerns to the Welney Parish Council. The attitude of the Council led the Group to decide to pursue the matter further themselves. The Group therefore invited officers from AWS and EA to meet them at Tipps End on Friday 11th October. Mr Adam Basham for the EA explained the legal and consultation processes involved. Mr John Falcon (?), for AWS described their legal responsibility to provide sewerage for Welney & Christchurch, and the process they had gone through to find suitable land that was available to them. Both answered a variety of questions. The officers then took the Group to see where the discharge point and Treatment Works would be if consent and planning permission were granted. The condition of the Old Croft River (stagnant and static) was noted. See photos. The officers also kindly agreed to attend the second public meeting convened by the Group, to be held on Monday 15th October at 8pm in Welney Parish Hall. The Action Group were very grateful to the officers concerned for their time and courtesy.

Residents Concerns

Many concerns were raised by those attending the Action Group's first public meeting on Monday 8th October 2007. Some of those were raised again at the next meeting. With regard to the discharge application, some doubted that the Old Croft River had the ability to efficiently disperse large volumes of treated effluent. The river is little more than a stagnant ditch. Flow is virtually nil. The forecast discharge of nearly 100 gallons a minute is likely to stir up years of accumulated stinking sludge that could move back and forth along the river creating a foul stench. One or two thought the river would be scoured clean as a result of the extra input, but as the river doesn't flow much even after heavy rains most felt that was unlikely. With regard to the Treatment Works, there are the obvious worries about smell, visual impact on open countryside, and the possible adverse affect on house prices. Overall, there was a great deal of anger about the apparent lack of consultation. Some felt that the Welney Parish Council or some of its members must have been aware of the proposal and wondered why they did not bring this to our attention and seek our views. Further down this page are extracts from the Councils minutes showing that the Council discussed the Sewerage scheme on many occasions, but there is nothing to suggest they were aware of the proposed treatment site.    

A little more about the scheme

Rosemary Pratt, Assistant Consents Planner for AWS said “We believe the advantages of the Aerated lagoon system are as follows:
  • It is typical of the irrigation lagoons presently used by Agriculture in the rural environment.
  • From our perspective, it offers a best local environmental solution taking into account Visual Impact, minimum power, minimum vehicle visits etc.
  • This system is a water sealed system and therefore has no odour.
  • There are very small blowers and therefore noise is minimal.
  • The lagoon banks blend into the rural landscape.”

John Falcon from AWS told the Action Group that the scheme was at an "early stage", and the type of works and location were not confirmed. Full plans would not be drawn up until and unless the EA give consent. AWS would then have to apply for planning permission at which time further objections could be made. They were nevertheless fairly confident that work would start in late spring/early summer of 2008.

If it went ahead the nearest homes would have been only 400 m (metres) from the works. The AWS officer said that he considered that was a generous distance compared with many other plants, and that there is no legal minimum distance. He told the Group that there would be two rectangular lagoons each 40m x 80m (43 yds by 87 yds), about 4m (13 ft) deep, with 2 m below and 2 m above ground level. That would mean the combined surface area of the two lagoons would be just over 1½ acres, and the whole site could be 3 to 4 acres.

On the equipment suppliers website were details of the floating wind-powered aerators used in this type of scheme. They rose nearly 3m above water level, so the tops would be 5m (over 16ft) above ground level. The manufacturers claimed that the design "requires a minimum wind-speed of 4-5 mph 65-75% of the time to solve water problems".

When back-up electric motors are used, I understand that noise levels would be about 40 decibels. You can learn much more about the Aero-Fac lagoon system from the the manufacturers own literature: sales brochure, aeration units, and design guidelines.

How many homes would have been affected?

Difficult to say, depends how you define "affected", how effective the treatment plant is at suppressing odours, and how landscaping may soften the visual impact.

I estimate that in Tipps End several homes would only be about 220m (240 yards) from the discharge point, 20 homes would be within 500 yards of it, and 56 within half a mile.  In addition there are the properties at Lakes End, and along the A1101 Wisbech Road from Welney House to Lakes End.

Who knew about the proposed site?

The Action Group asked Welney Parish Council on 2nd October 2007 if they knew about the proposed sites of discharge and works but apparently they did not.

A spokesperson for our local MP Christopher Fraser, said that Mr Fraser was aware of the scheme through his contact with the Council, but I don't know if he knew the exact details. The land owner, Norfolk County Council (NCC) knew because they have apparently indicated they would sell the land to AWS.

One would have thought that some of the following would have known officially or heard about the project from their contacts long before AWS submitted their application to the EA.
The farmer who rents the land from the NCC. The Welney Parish Council The Kings Lynn & West Norfolk Borough Council The Upwell Internal Drainage Board (whose area includes the Old Croft River).

Some members of the Drainage board were also on the District Council (one concerned with planning), another Chairman of the Welney Parish Council and also farmed the land. Yet it seems that none of those good folk had the slightest inkling of what was planned because if they had, surely they would have shared the information with those they represent?


Extracts from minutes of the Welney Parish Council


  • 12th April 2006, under "Correspondence" "Comment Note from Mrs. P. Rix - 1. Any progress with Mains Sewerage for the Village. Agreed to make enquiries of the Borough Council. 2. Current state of the Croft River. The Chairman explained the situation regarding water flow from the Internal Drainage Board point of view, and suggested that possibly a meeting with the I.D.B. would be useful. He advised that he would speak to the person concerned to see if this could be arranged."
  • 9th May 2006,  under "Matters Arising"  "3. Mains Sewage - Following Mrs. Rix’s enquiry at the last meeting, the clerk had contacted the Borough Council for an update. Nothing had been heard and a further request for information would be made."
  • 13th Sept 2006, under "Correspondence"  "12. Fiona Sarson of Savilles – Re First Time Sewage for Welney. Letter circulated to Councillors regarding a request she had received from Anglian Water to commence negotiations for the purchase of land for the Treatment Works in the Village. She had approached two land owners who were not interested in selling, and asked Council if they could recommend alternative sites. After discussion it was proposed by Cllr.Allen, seconded by Cllr.Jones and unanimously agreed that we reply to Miss Sarson and ask for a meeting in the village with her or Anglian Water so that we can obtain more information before we recommend any possible sites,"
  • 11th October 2006, under "Matters Arising" "4. Mains Sewer for Welney – Following the last meeting the Clerk had written to Mrs. Sarson at Savilles asking if a site meeting could be arranged so that the Council could obtain more information before considering recommendation of any sites suitable for Treatment Works. Despite two letters and a telephone call, nothing had been heard. The Clerk agreed to try and make contact as soon as possible"
  • 7th November 2006, under "Matters Arising" "Mains Sewer for Welney –.The clerk confirmed that she had received a letter from Mr. Dick Prescott of Savilles at Huntingdon who has taken over the file from Mrs. Fiona Sarson. Mr. Prescott had sent a copy of a plan to all landowners in the area asking if they would mark any land which they owned. The Clerk had telephoned to say we did not own any land and he went on to explain that Anglian Water are proposing to carry out a joint scheme with Welney and Christchurch and are looking to put a Vacuum Pumping Station at Welney, one at Christchurch and one about half way between, with a pipe linking the two villages. He is currently in communication with the Borough Council regarding an area on the field off Chestnut Avenue which could be suitable for the Pumping Station, but this is at a very early stage. If all goes well Anglian Water are hoping to start the scheme in the summer of 2008 but Mr. Prescott has promised to keep us fully informed. There followed a lengthy discussion regarding this matter, and it was agreed to include a note in the Welney News but that nothing further could be done until we heard again from Savills."
  • 13th Dec 2006, under "Matters Arising" "3. Mains Sewer for Welney – The Clerk confirmed that details had been included in the last issue of the Welney News. Nothing further had been heard but Council were advised that we should receive more information in due course when the Agents are in a position to contact us again."


The only references to the sewerage scheme that I found in the WPC minutes from Jan to Aug 2007 were:
  • 9th July 2007, under "Items for Agenda at next meeting" "3. Update on Mains Sewage situation."
  • 21st Aug 2007, under "Matters Arising" "3. First Time Sewage for Welney – The Clerk confirmed that she had spoken to Dick Prescott at Savilles on 15th August and he had advised as follows: The scheme is well progressed and it is hoped that it will be started next Spring/Summer 2006. He is hopeful that it will be April. Anglian Water are the in process of trying to purchase an area of land in Christchurch and a piece of land in the field off Chestnut Avenue for the installation of vacuum pumping stations and these purchases are well advanced.. It will consist of a brick building a little larger than a garden shed containing a vacuum pump which will take the waste material into a well and pump it off to the treatment works., The building will be fenced to keep it safe and surrounded by trees. There will be no smell or anything visible. They are also hoping to purchase an area of land between Christchurch and Welney for the installation of the Treatment Works, He promised to keep us fully informed of developments and a possible start date in due course."

Note: The minutes for the meeting on 2nd Oct 2007 would not be available until a few days after the meeting on 1st November 2007!

Consultee responses

I e-mailed three organisations on 9th October 207 asking if they had been consulted about the discharge application and whether they could issue a statement for inclusion on this site.  These are the responses:
  • KL & WN BC - No response at all.
  • Norfolk CC (1st email) Autoreply
  • Norfolk CC (2nd email) "message read by Amanda Jack" - but no further response.
  • Natural England (following statement received next day !)
"Thank you for your email, which has been forwarded to myself as the Conservation Officer covering this area at the moment. This is a subject which a number of residents at Tipps End have contacted us about with their concerns. Whilst the Environment Agency (EA) is primarily dealing with this case (and I would advise contacting Adam Basham at the EA for further details), it is correct that Natural England were consulted by the EA as to our views on the Discharge License.

Natural England's primary responsibility with cases such as these, is to ensure that designated sites and protected species are not impacted as a result of a proposal.  Our involvement with this case has been fairly limited so far, in that we have had a consultation from the EA asking for comments on a discharge license. We had no objection to the discharge license in principle, as we had assurances that there is no pathway for any treated effluent to affect the hydrology of the Ouse Washes SSSI/SPA from this point, and as such an Appropriate Assessment under Regulation 48 of the EU Habitat Regulations was not required.

This is only one step in the proceedings, and any development at this site will be subject to a number of other issues being resolved. Any proposals for a sewerage treatment works will require planning permission, and as such it will be at this stage where we will make sure that all ecological considerations are fully addressed, and local residents will have the opportunity to comment on the suitability of this site.

Our response will be based on an assessment of the potential impact on protected species, such as water voles or badgers that we believe to be in the area, or how the proposals will retain any important habitats.

Our advice will be passed on to the relevant local planning authority who have a duty to take it into consideration. Any scheme at this site should only be able to progress if the local planning authority is satisfied that these issues have been fully addressed, and that there will not be a negative impact to notable wildlife in the area as a result of the proposals.

I hope that this is sufficient for your website at present. We thank you and the local residents for making us aware of this case, and will of course be ensuring that wildlife issues are fully addressed.

Regards, Justin Tilley, Natural England."
Sources as noted.
Text, design and layout: Peter Cox
© 2014 Welney Website

Plan "A" withdrawn

On February 14th 2008 the EA confirmed that AWS had withdrawn their application. A new site for the Works has been chosen in the region of grid ref 500954, 1¼ miles further west, with the treated effluent being taken westwards via existing field drains into the Sixteen Foot Drain near Bedlam Bridge. Good news for many residents of Tipps End but some may still find the proposals invasive.
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