Despite an attempt to have the schemes reviewed, Tynwald has backed a plan that should see the end of the dumping of raw sewage off the coasts of Peel and Laxey.
Members backed committing a further £16.9m to completing the island’s regional sewage treatment strategy, which replaced the unfeasible IRIS scheme. This takes the total cost of the whole scheme for regional sewage to £40.5m.
Chairman of Manx Utilities, Onchan MHK Rob Callister, said he was ‘delighted’ to be bringing the motion to Tynwald, something which could no doubt come back to bite him if the work is not done during the life of this administration.
Recognising that the people of Peel, Laxey and Baldrine have been let down before, including by the last administration and its rather ineffective Programme for Government when planning permission became impossible to achieve.
Mr Callister said: ‘It should be noted that in both Peel and Laxey the proposals were discussed at length with the planning team prior to any submission, and it was believed that the Planning Officers viewed both applications favourably. However, due to the extent of community opposition to the proposed scheme for Laxey down at the Cairn site by the harbour, Manx Utilities decided to re-appraise all options, and therefore decided not to appeal the planning decision – and as the Chair of Manx Utilities I fully endorse the decision taken.’
Meanwhile in Peel, Manx Utilities managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with its plans for Glenfaba House before it was decided that it would require the removal of too many trees and the planning inspector concluded more needed to be done to consider other sites.
All of this led to Tuesday, where Mr Callister outlined that pumping from either location to Meary Veg would be more expensive, though this continues to be disputed by some. While we have a pretty good idea where the Peel site will be (between Glenfaba Road and the River Neb), discovering where the Garff site will be has proved about as tricky as finding out The Queen’s pin code.
All we do know about Garff is that the Cairns site will need a pumping station anyway, as will Glen Garwick Estate, before the sewage heads to the mystery location for treatment.
Mr Callister said: ‘As an island we have been discussing the recycling of the Island’s sewage waste for over 30 years, but Members’ support here today will help bring us closer to ceasing the discharge of raw sewage into sea on the remaining three locations of our island’s coastline.’
Middle MHK Stu Peters said he found it ‘unacceptable’ that members were being asked to support sending an extra £17m for the scheme. He said: ‘I understand from my colleague, for whom I have some sympathy, that plans have changed and costs have risen in the interim, but to almost double the price? I believe that entire sewage treatment plant, the IRIS scheme in particular has been been an omnishambles going back decades.’
Mr Peters said he felt ‘pressured’ to support the scheme as, like the Liverpool Landing Stage debacle, the alternative was wasting money that had already been spent and said ‘we must do better’.
Dr Michelle Haywood said that there has never been a more pressing time to finish off the system as developments have been allowed to be built without sufficient infrastructure and that having dived to see the pipeline herself, she wouldn’t recommend a visit.
She added: ‘The Victorians embarked on some engineering works to remove sewage away from drinking water and away from homes, though sadly that involved dumping it in the sea as they had no other options. We now know better and we now can do better.’
Garff MHK Daphne Caine said that a number of constituents felt they hadn’t been listened to and accused Manx Utilities of ‘being secretive’ about its plans. She said: ‘We also do not have the benefit of seeing the environmental impact assessment as that is considered sensitive until it goes forward as part of the planning application. I do find that baffling.’
Mrs Caine went on to say that she didn’t believe the scheme is right for Garff or Peel and sought members support to acknowledge a need to end the dumping of raw sewage while asking CoMin to appoint external independent advisers to examine the scheme, including looking at pumping to Meary Veg.
Ultimately Mrs Caine’s bid failed as only six MHKs and one MLC supported it, albeit one of these was Rob Callister who pressed the wrong button. Returning to the motion the scheme was supported with only one MHK voting against it.