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Anger at council plans to allow Hillingdon cafe to dump sewage into river

Plans by Hillingdon Council to allow a local café to dump treated sewage into a river have faced public objection from councillors in neighbouring borough Hounslow.

The council made an application on February 16 to the Environment Agency to allow the discharge of secondary treated sewage effluent into the River Crane which runs through both West London boroughs.

Highlighted by conservation organisation, Cranford Action Group, the application has faced criticism for its lack of transparency and short public consultation period which ends on Friday (March 15). The sewage, although treated, could still harm biodiversity and ‘set a bad precedent’ for sewage dumping in the area according to biologist and action group member Dr Umme Khanzada.

The decision to grant the application would have far-reaching consequences not just in Hillingdon but in Hounslow as well, which is downstream of the proposed dump site. This could mean that sewage is carried into important nature sites by the river with Hounslow residents and councillors not having a say.

Isleworth ward councillors Cllr John Stroud-Turp, Cllr Salman Shaheen, and Cllr Sue Sampson have spoken up to express their objection to the plan. In a joint statement, they say: “We call on Hillingdon Council to urgently rethink their plans and seek a cleaner and greener solution. We also call on the Environment Agency to reject Hillingdon’s application.

“As the three Councillors for Isleworth, we constantly seek to hold Thames Water to account for its sewage discharges from the Mogden Sewage Treatment Works. Therefore, we are deeply concerned that Hillingdon would contemplate adding a new source of partially treated sewage to our watercourse, particularly in this beautiful river.

“Adding sewage, no matter how it might have been treated, to the river would almost certainly have an impact on the finely balanced ecosystem of the river causing a serious decline in water quality and impacting the flora and fauna of the river, critically in the newly established Northcote Nature Reserve.”

They also echoed the Cranford Action Group’s frustrations about the way their neighbouring council had gone about making the application. They wrote: “The application, to the EA, was only made on the 16th February 2024. It sits on an obscure part of the EA’s website and there was no public consultation by Hillingdon Council.”

Anger at council plans to allow Hillingdon cafe to dump sewage into river Harrow Online
River Crane. Permission for use by all LDRS partners. Credit: Crandford Action Group

The application comes as part of a major restoration project in Cranford Park, which includes the construction of a modern cafe and toilet facilities just upstream of Cranford Park Bridge. Currently, sewage from the site is retained in a 19th-century septic tank, which Hillingdon Council say is no longer viable following the restoration work.

However, the councillors don’t agree that the best move is to dump as much as almost 10 cubic meters of partially treated sewage per day into the River Crane. They reiterate they believe the decision would be harmful to several wildlife habitats as well as water quality of the river as a whole.

“We share [] concerns that the partially treated sewage would harm the river’s ecosystem and wildlife and would be harmful to water quality – which runs counter to our Nature Recovery Action Plan. Meanwhile, our Green and Blue Infrastructure Strategy seeks to enhance our waterways, whilst Hillingdon’s actions would do the exact opposite.

“Of concern to Hounslow residents is that shortly after flowing through Cranford Park the River Crane enters the Borough of Hounslow. The river flows beside Cole Park Allotments in Isleworth and we are alarmed that it could diminish this key green space and its environment, which is a vital amenity for residents without gardens in the nearby Ivybridge Estate.

“The Crane is also a vital part of the newly developed Northcote Nature Reserve – which includes a tidal basin fed from the Crane. The idea that this tidal basin might be subject to sewage flow is at complete variance to the ethos of the new nature reserve.”

Hillingdon Council have previously said that sewage will meet “very stringent requirements before it can be discharged”. It has said that of alternative options “almost all had to be discounted due to the constraints of the site” which it says still mainly relies on Victorian sewage systems “no longer fit for purpose”.

The Environment Agency is taking comments on the plan until March 15. Residents or concerned parties can comment via this email: psc-waterquality@environment-agency.gov.uk. For those looking for advice about how to make a representation or if you are unable to make a representation via email you can call 03708 506 506.

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