Local Plan

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Representation 2667 on Preferred Options Local Plan by tollesbury & mersea native oyster fishery co ltd (mrs jane dixon)

Support / Object: OBJECT
Document Link: Preferred Options Local Plan - Sustainable Settlements, Mersea Island, SS17a: Mersea Housing and Employment
Representation: The holding of freshwater and treatment of sewage can and should be upgraded regularly. With the possibility of 350 houses being built will the drainage be sufficient and of a clean enough quality not to affect either the cultivation of the oysters or the quality of the bathing beaches? And will the sewage works be expanded and improved again prior to developments in order that it can be fully functioning from first occupation to ensure our present sewage system is not overloaded causing unwanted contamination discharge into the river?

Original submission

Local Plan - West Mersea

We are writing with concerns over the possibility of future large residential developments on Mersea Island.

The Tollesbury & Mersea Native Oyster Fishery Co Ltd are the oldest registered company in Britain and have been cultivating native oysters in the River Blackwater since 1876. The Mersea Native oyster being one of the most exclusive and sought after in the UK. The cultivation of the oysters is highly dependent upon among other things the quality of the water of the Rivers Colne and Blackwater.

We work closely with Natural England, Essex Wildlife Trust, Zoological Society of London, Kent & Essex Fisheries under the provisions of the Shellfish Act 1967 to keep the seabeds and river as free from contaminants as possible. We are also undertaking a nationally important regeneration initiative to recover stocks of this Biodiversity Action Plan species to create a sustainable fishery.

In the past houses were built and nothing was done to improve drainage or sewage facilities, leading to heavily polluted water in the river. While a certain degree of untreated waste can be accepted for the cultivating of oysters, we have had to negotiate hard for the better drainage of fresh and foul water and an upgraded sewage works in order to prevent the total demise of the Mersea Native oyster due to water contamination. The Environment Agency and Anglian Water were involved and West Mersea Town Council also put pressure on for improvements in order to provide cleaner swimming beaches on the Island. The result of these negotiations was an improved sewage system which resulted in cleaner water for oyster cultivation and bathing (Mersea obtained a blue flag). The Water Framework Directive came in in 2000 and will help in the continuation of our fight against water contamination.

Since that time more houses have been built and of the six caravan sites on the Island at least two (the largest caravan parks) are now open eleven months of the year, creating a large increase in resident population and effluent loadings. Three of the sites have expanded considerably their number of static and touring caravans and while they may have their own sewage facilities, they are not controlled by Anglian Water and contaminated water from these can still run into the Rivers Colne and Blackwater.

Our weather patterns have also changed and we have seen an increase in frequency of episodic flash flooding. This affects the clean water drainage especially where the drains are CSOs and these together with heavy rainfall causes the manholes to overflow with contaminated water, all of which run off untreated into the creeks and estuary.

While it may be difficult to improve the fresh water drainage in the older parts of the Island, the holding of freshwater and treatment of sewage can and should be upgraded regularly. With the possibility of 350 houses being built will the drainage be sufficient and of a clean enough quality not to affect either the cultivation of the oysters or the quality of the bathing beaches? And will the sewage works be expanded and improved again prior to these proposed new developments in order that it can be fully functioning from the time the first householder moves in to ensure our present sewage system is not overloaded causing unwanted contaminated discharge into the river?

These matters need to be addressed as the current Asset Management Plan (AMP6) has already been allocated and plans for funding for AMP7 are underway.


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