Politicians and environmental campaigners have responded to the announcement of a new 'Pathfinder' initiative by Southern Water to cut sewage outfalls on the Isle of Wight.

Last week, the County Press exclusively reported the new plan, to cut outfalls into the sea and Island rivers by up to 80 per cent, for 90 per cent of the Island, by 2030.

MP Bob Seely told the County Press he had been talking to the utility giant and had received assurances they were working to achieve a huge cut in spills by the end of the decade.

Cllr Jonathan Bacon, Alliance administration cabinet member for the environment, said: “On the face of it we can only be pleased Southern Water has announced that the Island is to be a Pathfinder site to cut sewage dumping, however that pleasure has to be tempered with some concerns.

"We are most disappointed the project does not cover the whole Island.

"There are other areas which have clearly experienced problems but which will apparently not benefit from what is proposed.

“We would also like to see a clear timescale for what is proposed so that progress and success can be measured and Southern Water can be held to account as this project proceeds.

“Nevertheless, the fact that we now appear to have a commitment to prevent the sort of discharges that caused so much concern last summer is good.

"Our beaches and rivers are key parts of our Island Biosphere and our visitor economy.

"Southern Water will be closely watched to see that they honour the commitment they have made.”

Isle of Wight County Press: Banner in Gurnard protesting about sewage dumping.Banner in Gurnard protesting about sewage dumping.

Richard Quigley, IW Council member for Cowes North, said: "“ I am very pleased Southern Water has identified the level of sewage outflows on the Island is unacceptable and welcome their commitment. I do, however, take exception at MP Bob Seely claiming he has “won” the commitment from SW.

"If he had voted in favour of the Duke of Wellington amendment to the Environment Bill, their commitment would have had to be zero sewage dumping.

Myself and Cllrs Andre, Bacon and Jarman obtained much bigger commitments from them in the summer, including making the IW the most sustainable island for water in Europe.

We will continue to campaign to stop the remaining 20 per cent of dumping SW haven’t committed to

"The Island is rightly proud of its beaches and we will continue to fight to make them as attractive as possible.”

Maria Villa Vine, who helped organise protests against storm outfalls as opposition grew in 2020, said: "I too am pleased to hear of the commitment that Southern Water have made to benefit this Island's coastal waters.

"As a sea swimmer I look forward to one day not having to rely on notifications from apps to inform my options of swimming in clean or sewage-laden waters.

"My aspiration is for 100 per cent sewage-free seas, is that not too much to ask for in 2022?

Bob Seely states he has won the commitment but is it not interesting that his motivation to do so seemed only apparent after much public outcry?

"I watch and wait like many other ocean activists with baited breath to see what happens next!"

Isle of Wight County Press: A list of the sewage interchanges on the Isle of Wight. The Sandown New ones will be affected by the new initiative.A list of the sewage interchanges on the Isle of Wight. The Sandown New ones will be affected by the new initiative.

Stop the Sewage representative Stephen Cockett has written several documents about Southern Water’s role, questioning the private finance model of a monopoly public service utility and the presumption that the customer must pay for any improvements rather than the shareholders.

On the first point he says: “Southern Water’s ownership structure is a mish mash of investment funds, the big player with a 51% stake is former Wightlink owner, Sydney based Macquarie group, who have recently bought in for £1 billions.

“The business has been passed around several times through various companies all taking a slice of our money in return for a management that looks the other way when raw sewage is pumped into our waters.

So, we have a law-breaking yet essential-for-life water company owned by foreign financiers that is saddled with around £5 billion in debt to other financiers (a debt that we will clearly be paying a pretty penny for in interest) that creams off staggering amounts of profit to private hands.

“Those hundreds of millions of ours should be invested in infrastructure NOT foreign investment funds balance sheets and shareholder dividends.

“What on earth is the point of this privatised financial merry-go-round if not even the essential product – clean water – is being provided?

“If anyone can answer that I would be most grateful, and if no one can then let’s get this back in public hands and stop these people taking the pee for the next 32 years.”

On the customer pays argument, Stephen says: “As a reasonable improvement that befits the standards that the public would aspire to: The estimated costs for , say, ten spills per year on average in sensitive rivers (such as chalk streams) and B improving rivers known to be used for bathing to achieve an average spill frequency of five per year would range from £24 Billion to £108 billion.

“These only represent a pragmatic approach.

“Taking the mid-range £60 billon cost for the above upgrades, one cannot help but notice the similarity in cost to the profit that has been extracted in shareholder dividends since 1991 ie £57 Billion.

“It can be argued that had those profits not been taken then we could have had those improvements for the same bill price.”