CAMPAIGNERS fighting to clean up the River Kent said they were 'frustrated' that a meeting with Louise Beardmore, the chief executive officer of United Utilities, has been postponed to next year. 

Clean River Kent Campaign claims that United Utilities has discharged untreated sewage from the Staveley Wastewater Treatment Works into the River Kent for a total of 4,064 hours - the equivalent of 169 continuous days and nights. They also said that 62 discharges of raw sewage had ended up on the streets of Staveley, most recently in September. 

A petition signed by 286 residents, businesses, organisations and local school children had been ready to present to Ms Beardmore at the start of the meeting - but this will be sent to her instead given the new date. 

The meeting had been organised to discuss the assurances from United Utilities that they will invest in the Staveley Wastewater Treatment Works by 2030 at the latest.

The group said that while this investment should reduce the volume of sewage discharged into the river Kent, it is not known by how much. In addition, there is no commitment from United Utilities to investment to tackle the continuing sewage discharges onto the streets.

United Utilities sid the event, which had been planned for Monday, October 2, and now rescheduled to 31 January 2024, had been delayed due to the group changing the 'format' of the meeting. 

READ MORE: Staveley against sewage: petition started to save river Kent

CRKC chair Isobel Stoddart said, “It was very disappointing that the meeting was cancelled, especially after all the effort that the local community had put into preparing for it. United Utilities says that they want to work in partnership with local communities to deliver solutions to decades of underinvestment in our sewage systems.

"However, after years of inaction from United Utilities, the proof will be in the commitments they make in the build-up to the delayed meeting in January – they need to prove that they mean what they say and come to that meeting with costed plans with facts and figures showing how they intend to achieve a Clean River and Clean Streets. 

Staveley resident Mike Cambray said: "The issue of sewage on the streets has been going on for years in this village – so far there has been insufficient action to deal with it. All Staveley is asking for is base level sanitation – whatever goes into the sewer pipes from households and business stays in those pipes until it is correctly processed at the Wastewater Treatment Works.

"Sewage on the streets is unacceptable and the strength of feeling about the issue runs high in Staveley, as demonstrated by the numerous and heartfelt petition comments submitted.”

A United Utilities spokesperson said: “A private meeting was originally agreed with representatives of the parish council and the Clean River Kent Group. However, CRKG wanted to change the format of the meeting and open it up to all the members of their group. Our CEO is happy to meet with the group, and share the details of wastewater improvements that we are planning for Staveley, however, a longer appointment will be needed. The new date was agreed with the organisers to ensure there is enough time to make the meeting worthwhile for everyone involved.”