April 24, 2023 5.00 pm This story is over 14 months old

Council threatens to ‘maximise fines’ of Anglian Water

The company has promised to improve

Lincolnshire County Council has said more fines will be brought against Anglian Water if it does not improve its performance soon.

The water company bosses admitted to that performance hasn’t been good enough, but vowed to improve.

They also came under fire for not yet signing up to a council charter with other utility companies.

A critical report came before the authority’s Highways and Transport Committee on Monday.

Issues highlighted by a report before councillors included inconsistencies when dropping road closure signs, or contacting LCC prior to closing roads, as well as setting up traffic management before teams can attend sites and failures to provide LCC with diversionary information.

Ashley Behan, Lincolnshire County council’s street works and permitting manage, said: “By Anglian Water’s own admission and what’s covered in the report, there are areas where they haven’t been as good as they could be – in particular, volumes of road closures and leaving road closures up on site.

“We will continue to work with them to improve and where they don’t improve we will look to maximise our inspectors’ issue of fines, but we’d like to avoid that as much as possible.”

Sean McCarthy, Anglian Water’s head of leakage, admitted performance had “not been what it should have been”.

“We’re not really where we should’ve been but it’s been a hugely challenging year,” he said.

Council officers were critical of Anglian Water’s performance | Photo: Lincolnshire Reporter

The water company said there had been “significant impacts” on the work it had been able to carry out due to leakage as well as extreme weather events and climate change.

This included a 38% increase in burst mains, from 4,858 to 6,693.

“We’ve got a huge challenge making sure that industry and populations can grow in Lincolnshire,” he said.

“Some of those these improvements are going to have impacts on highway but clearly we want to try and mitigate that and make sure that as well as investing into the communities, we’re not impacting communities.

“Clearly we haven’t been over that the the last 12 months and we’re going to get better at that and improve our situation.”

He said £350,000 had been spent on short term solutions including major updates to the company’s central planning system, better links to traffic management companies, extra weekend staff and improved training.

Tangible improvements to the average length of road closures had already been made with the number of works completed in three-days up from 55.35% to 81.48%.

It hoped to get another £1m to make further improvements.

Long-term, Anglian Water is promoting a major pipeline project which aims to better connect the north and south of Lincolnshire all the way to Essex.

Councillors were critical of the systems in place and called on Anglian Water to be proactive around local responses to issues, making sure communities weren’t affected over prolonged or repeated periods of time.

They called for more attention to be paid to clearing roads as soon as possible after works were completed and for the timings of bigger closures to be better considered – such as doing them during school holidays.

Anglian Water promised that it would work with Lincolnshire Highways on its charter for utilities, but said the legislative nature of some of the wording was initially too prescriptive.

However, Lincolnshire County Council leader Councillor Martin Hill was not impressed.

“Nobody was trying to get Anglian Water to sign in blood or damage their profits, it was just a way of working together,” he said.

He also accused the company of “excessively using emergency closures which bypass all the controls that the county council tries to work with you”.

Andy Skelhorn, head of reinstatement, admitted the company “sometimes go through a road closure as the easy option”.

He said the company was upskilling its staff to consider different ways of working including less intrusive techniques.

“We are reducing that time of occupation. We are heading in the right direction to work those road closures as quickly as possible and safely as possible,” he said.

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