Delivering Better Water Quality In Cornwall In Cornwall we have a special relationship with the water. We use it for fun and exercise, for food, and commerce. One of the world’s most sustainable fisheries is the river Fal, right here in our community. With the sea we have a highway to the world, one we have always used to sell Cornish goods around the globe, and more recently to welcome tourists to our county.

The greatest threat to our waters today is sewage. This threat is not new; I have spoken to surfers who joke that in the 1970s they could go to the toilet at the top of their village and see it come out at the bottom. But the threat is pervasive, and it has gotten worse. Last year an appalling figure from South West Water revealed that a single storm overflow had spilled 355 times for almost 7,500 hours into the Fal. For the equivalent of 312 days, it dumped sewage into our water, and this is only one of many storm overflow outlets in the Fal alone. This is unacceptable, and we have acted decisively to end it.

In Parliament I voted for the Water Quality (Sewage Discharge) Bill. It has a simple and clear purpose; to set a target for the reduction of sewage discharges, to enforce financial penalties where water companies exceed these levels, and to outline a clear environmental plan for our water which meets the challenge of sewage in our modern society but does not do so at the expense of our environment.

With this Bill we have enhanced and refined what the landmark Environment Act (2021) is intended to achieve. I served on the Bill Committee for the Environment Act, and I am proud to have done so. Not only because I love to swim, and have done since I was a child, but because across Parliament we came together as a good Bill Committee should to make the best possible piece of legislation – and we did.

The Act set the standard we expect of our water companies. It requires that they produce a comprehensive Drainage and Sewerage Management Plan showing how they intend to manage, develop, and improve their sewage systems and storm overflows. It requires monitors to be installed to track overflows and investigate the causes of spills. We already know so much more than we did two years ago, and this 21st century solution means we can target where these spills occur, especially when they threaten beaches or environmentally sensitive areas. And it has facilitated in the creation of an interactive map to track spills and to reassure people that the water is safe for them to swim.

But you know that words alone are not enough, and this Government has backed theirs up with action. In recent weeks, South West Water received a record £2.1 million fine for the illegal dumping of sewage in Cornwall and Devon, and for the resulting environmental damage. I understand that South West Water has made improvements since we issued the Environment Act. They have proposed six new overflows designed to improve water quality for shellfish and bathing waters in and around the Fal. Sites such as North Parade, the Prince of Wales Pier, Old Hill, and the Falmouth Sewage Treatment Works. £13.2 million will be invested to achieve this by 2025, with a further £40 million spent by 2030. They are doing the work, and I commend them for their efforts. But right now, they remain a one-star company, and it is not enough.

I wholeheartedly support the fine. It is right that we enforce the standards we expect. This is what the Bill is for, and I would have it taken a step further. In parliament I called for fines imposed on water companies to be used to repair the damage to our waters and fix the problems which caused the – creating the lasting change we need to keep our waters safe.

This Government is the first in thirty years to find a lasting and effective solution to the problem of sewage. For too long we have relied on an antiquated and unreliable system, and since my election I have worked hard to change this. And now we have.

We will end the problem of spillage into our water; we will hold polluters to account with sanctions, we will protect the consumer from paying the cost of fines, and we will commit to preserving and maintaining our environment. We all share a duty of care to keep our waters safe, desirable, and healthy, and this is what we are going to do.

Where other parties promise, it is Conservatives who deliver.

Cherilyn Mackrory

Truro and Falmouth MP