Councillors angry at the release of sewage into Norfolk's rivers and seas have slammed Anglian Water for not moving quickly enough to tackle the problem.

Water bosses were grilled by Norfolk county councillors over the number of pollution incidents, where the company is permitted to release sewage in periods of heavy rain to stop foul water backing up into people's homes.

While figures for such spills in 2023 were not available, county councillors heard there were 2,006 such incidents across Norfolk in 2022, which lasted for a total of just over 8,768 hours.

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At a meeting of Norfolk County Council's cross-party scrutiny committee, Anglian Water bosses said they were reducing the use of such storm overflows and investing £200m to do so.

But the company came under fire from county councillors over its £800m 25-year investment plan, with members from across political spectrums slamming it for being too little, too late and not being ambitious enough.

Eastern Daily Press: Conservative county councillor Tim FitzPatrickConservative county councillor Tim FitzPatrick (Image: Archant)

Conservative Tom FitzPatrick said: "I pay £900 something a year in what we used to call water rates and I am appalled how little of that goes to addressing this situation.

"The 25-year-plan is 25 years too late in my opinion and I don't think it is anywhere near ambitious enough."

Anglian Water bosses admitted it would cost £650bn nationwide to bring spillages down to zero.

Eastern Daily Press: Green county councillor Jamie OsbornGreen county councillor Jamie Osborn (Image: Jamie Osborn)

Green Jamie Osborn said, in that context, while the £800m and £200m Anglian Water is spending might sound a lot, the reality was that it would not end the problem.

Eastern Daily Press: Labour leader Steve MorphewLabour leader Steve Morphew (Image: Denise Bradley)

Labour group leader Steve Morphew, chairman of the committee, which last quizzed water company bosses last May, asked how much per customer was being spent to tackle storm overflow discharges, only for Anglian Water officers to say that figure was not available.

Mr Morphew said: "The numbers being bandied around doesn't sound like a lot of money when you consider there are six million customers in the Anglian Water area. I think those six million would be expecting to see quite a lot more being done."

Matthew Moore, flood partnerships manager at Anglian Water, acknowledged the company had not been quick enough in the past, but that it was important that a 25-year-plan was deliverable.

Eastern Daily Press: Mundesley BeachMundesley Beach (Image: Newsquest)

Last summer, people were warned to avoid swimming in the water at Mundesley beach after sewage overflow systems were triggered.


Eastern Daily Press: Henry CatorHenry Cator (Image: Archant)

Henry Cator, who chairs the Norfolk Strategic Flooding Alliance, said he feared the slow pace of improvement work meant this winter could see a repeat of last year - where people in areas such as Burnham Market, Grimston and Carbrooke had been left unable to flush their toilets because of high groundwater levels.

He called for more joined-up thinking, so water can be abstracted from such areas at "times of plenty" and stored for use during drought.

Eastern Daily Press: A car drives through flood water in Burnham MarketA car drives through flood water in Burnham Market (Image: Chris Bishop)

Anglian Water's Mr Moore said abstraction of water was tightly regulated, which limited how much the company could take out in those parts of the county.

Environment Agency officers told the committee the organisation was becoming more flexible about permitting abstraction in such circumstances.