A stink in the Lichfield Garden of Remembrance

17 Mar 2024


At the District Council meeting of 27 February, Cllr Hugh Ashton (LD, Stowe) submitted a written question to Cllr Andy Smith, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Parks & Major Projects, asking “'Beacon Park has been flooded with raw sewage far too many times in the past few months. Given that the sewage system in the region of Beacon Park is clearly unfit for purpose, and represents a public health hazard, what steps are being taken by the Council to ensure that Severn Trent Water fulfil their obligations to manage wastewater and sewage in a timely and responsible manner?”

Cllr Smith’s response was that: “Severn Trent have attended as an emergency call out and carried out clean up works and investigations. In April 2023 the cause was due to tree roots in the Garden of Remembrance, owned by Lichfield City Council, damaging the pipework. This was fixed and cleared at the time. The most likely cause of the January & February 2024 incidents have been determined to be ongoing blockages in the Garden of Remembrance. Clean up works have been completed and Severn Trent are now working directly with Lichfield City Council to further investigate the underlying cause within the Garden of Remembrance.”

As a supplementary question, Cllr Ashton enquired about Severn Trent providing diagnosis and a permanent solution to this problem, which might well re-occur, to which Cllr Smith answered that the current works carried out in the Garden of Remembrance should prevent a recurrence of the issue.

However, Cllr Ashton feels that more might be done, given the likely age and state of other drainage systems in the city and throughout the district. “Though I submitted my question to Cllr Smith before the current crisis, rather than as a response to it, the fact that the problem occurred immediately after my question indicates that either I have superpowers controlling Severn Trent operations, or that the underlying issue has been so serious that it represented a risk that could be realised at any time.

“I do not believe the first, and though I am happy to see the work currently being carried out, and Captain Smith is no doubt to be relieved to be steering the Titanic through cleaner waters, I fear that unless a city-wide assessment of the state of the drainage system with subsequent repairs is carried out, we will see a repeat performance elsewhere.”

Ashton continued, “Lichfield is not alone in its problems. Spills of raw sewage into our waterways used to be an exceptional event, only to be undertaken in cases of extreme emergency. Radical steps need to be taken here. The Liberal Democrats have called for meaningful binding targets to stop the decline of our natural environment and to protect our wildlife habitats. We need to give teeth to the Office for Environmental Protection, and increase funding for the Environment Agency and Natural England.


“We need only look at the actions of the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Waterways, Sir Michael Fabricant MP, to see how out of touch the Tories are with popular opinion on this subject as shown by his vote on strengthening regulations on sewage outfall ( https://votes.parliament.uk/Votes/Commons/Division/1116 ) followed by reams of political gaslighting in an attempt to persuade us that black is white. He has also voted against an amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill introduced by the Liberal Democrats which would give victims of sewage-related disease the right to sue the water companies ( https://www.theyworkforyou.com/divisions/pw-2023-12-04-21-commons ). Once again, it should be remembered that Sir Michael chairs the Commons group responsible for waterways.

“By contrast, Liberal Democrats want to see private water companies turned into public benefit companies, policed by a new tougher OFWAT, and with a ban on bonuses for the highly-paid directors and bosses of these companies while they continue to dump sewage into our rivers, lakes, and the sea, making beaches and rivers unsafe, not only for wildlife, but for humans, and destroying the economic livelihoods of those who rely on our waters for their work.” ( https://www.libdems.org.uk/green )

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