Concern over extra sewage from new housing after King’s Mill Reservoir pollution

King's Mill Reservoir in Sutton. (Photo by: Local Democracy Reporting Service)
King's Mill Reservoir in Sutton. (Photo by: Local Democracy Reporting Service)

Ashfield Council is looking into how it can ensure new housing developments do not worsen sewage overflows after Sutton’s King’s Mill Reservoir had to be temporarily closed to swimmers because of polluted waters.

The authority is concerned about the knock-on effect of any homes built as part of its strategic housing plan.All local authorities set out housing strategies to the Government to outline where new homes could be built.

Initial calculations suggested 8,226 homes were needed in Ashfield between 2021 and 2038 to meet Government targets.

However, backlash on two large sites – Whyburn Farm, in Hucknall, and Cauldwell Road, in Sutton, for a combined 4,000 homes – led to both locations being dropped and the council instead opting to lodge a reduced plan to the Government.

A council meeting heard updated papers, which do not include both sites, propose locations for about 5,600 new homes across various locations between 2025 and mid-2027, including 1,311 in Hucknall, 504 in Kirkby, 3,283 in Sutton and 499 across Selston, Jacksdale and Underwood.

However, councillors debating the amended plans – which are expected to be the subject of another consultation later this year – have asked for assurances over drainage.

It follows Environment Agency data showing four major sewage spillages into the district’s popular King’s Mill Reservoir last year, which led to an outdoor swimming club closing to swimmers from January until the summer .

The meeting heard this related to combined sewage systems overflowing after heavy rainfall, leading to concerns about future new homes worsening the issues.

Coun Matt Relf, council cabinet member for growth, regeneration regeneration and planning, said: “As we know with our old housing stock, we’ve got a lot of combined sewer systems and, unfortunately, sewage is overspilling into watercourses.

“We do have issues, for instance, of water pollution at King’s Mill Reservoir when it has been raining.

“I know it’s not our responsibility as a planning authority, but is there anything we should be taking into account in terms of these developments adding sewage into combined systems from elsewhere and worsening the water pollution issue?”

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Council officers responded by saying the authority is “totally reliant” on provider Severn Trent Water.

Christine Sarris, council assistant director of planning, said: “It’s one we can pick up by looking to STW to see if there’s capacity for sewage and treatment works.

“I know there are some instances of overflow at King’s Mill Reservoir. It’s about pinpointing that and the reasons why that happens. This is something we have to do slightly separately from the local plan process.

“I do agree, we need to ensure there is capacity and it’s something we can look at.”

Environment Agency data shows a further 40 sewage spillages also took place into the River Maun around Sutton last year.

STW says it has a team of rangers active around Mansfield and Ashfield who spent a day recently working with King’s Mill Reservoir staff, while a £76m flood resilience project in Mansfield will install sustainable drainage systems around the town, the River Maun and the reservoir. These will reduce “storm overflow activations by retaining surface water and delaying or preventing it entering the combined sewer network”, STW added.