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Barges could replace sewage sludge lorries on roads around King’s Lynn

PUBLISHED: 08:05 22 July 2011 | UPDATED: 08:36 22 July 2011

Could Fen rivers like the Ouse soon carry barges again..?

Could Fen rivers like the Ouse soon carry barges again..?

Barges could soon be plying Fenland waterways again, replacing tankers delivering sewage sludge to a treatment works.

Barges could soon be plying Fenland waterways again, replacing tankers delivering sewage sludge to a treatment works.

Anglian Water officials say the move would cut the number of lorries on the roads around its plant at Clockcase Lane, Clenchwarton, near King’s Lynn.

The company has been consulting villagers over the best way to improve access to the works, which process sludge - a by-product from sewage plants - and turn it into biogas and fertiliser.

The company has been consulting villagers over the best way to improve access to the works, which process sludge - a by-product from sewage plants - and turn it into biogas and fertiliser.

Barges once plied the Fens

Barges carrying cargo travelled the Fenland rivers from the Ouse and its tributaries the Cam and Little Ouse.

Horse-drawn lighters also plied the Middle Level system, while Wisbech was once a major port alongside King’s Lynn and Boston.

In more recent years barges were used to carry sugar beet to factories in King’s Lynn and the defunct plant alongside the Ouse near Queen Adelaide.

Gault - clay from Roswell Pits - was also transported by barge to build up the flood banks further down the Ouse.

There are plans to dig new channels, linking waterways for pleasure craft.

A lock built at Denver 10 years ago allows craft to travel to the outskirts of King’s lynn via the Relief Channel, rather than the treacherous tidal river.

But the proposed King’s Lynn marina was shelved because of the recession.

Could rivers carry cargo again - taking some of the pressure off our over-loaded roads?

So far proposals have included building a new access road or a reception centre away from the village, from which the sludge would be piped to the plant.

Last night Anglian Water spokesman Ciaran Nelson said the company was now looking at using the rivers Ouse and Welland to bring sludge to the plant by barge.

“We could use them to bring sludge from places like Ely, Boston, Tydd – possibly even further afield, depending on the economies of scale the project could generate,” he said.

“This would be a really great way to bring back to life under-used assets as in the river network in the eastern region.”

Mr Nelson said the cost of riverside facilities, including moorings, would need to be investigated.

At Ely, the sewage treatment works is next to the river. But barges moving downstream to Lynn would need to negotiate Denver Lock to access the tidal river to continue the journey to King’s Lynn.

Mr Nelson said: “There are pros and cons of each option, based around things like the capital cost to set the solution up, the ongoing cost of operating the option, and its cost to the environment.

“It’s also paramount that we consider residents’ opinions, which is what we’re engaged in doing at the moment – we met with parish council reps from Clenchwarton, and the West Lynn Forum, last Friday, and a newsletter will be going out to all residents next week.”

Mr Nelson said the company would have a clearer idea of whether the idea was worth progressing by September.

“Our objective will be to do this by 2015 at the latest,” he said. “We’re not talking pie in the sky, decades away stuff.”

Barges could not replace all of the 50 - 60 tankers a day serving the Clenchwarton works, as many of the sewage plants they deliver from are not close enough to rivers.

But Mr Nelson said if the plan went ahead, numbers could be “significantly reduced”.

Water bills are set to rise by between £3 and £14 a year for tens of thousands of consumers across East Anglia.

Anglian Water said it needs to cover the cost of taking over responsibility for pipes connecting some properties to mains sewage.


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