29 February 2024

Understanding the Impact of a Court Case on Outdoor Activities at YMCA Fairthorne Manor

In July 2019, an unfortunate incident occurred at Little Bull Lane pumping station in Waltham Chase, resulting in a discharge of raw sewage into the nearby chalk stream. This discharge, caused by equipment failure and delayed response from Southern Water, had significant repercussions for the environment and local community, especially those who enjoy outdoor activities at YMCA Fairthorne Manor.

The discharge site was located approximately 3km upstream from Shawford Lake, a crucial area for water-based activities such as kayaking, raft building, and paddleboarding at YMCA Fairthorne Manor. Sadly, nearly 2,000 fish died because of the incident, and the lake at Fairthorne Manor had to be closed for ten days, affecting numerous local school children and international visitors who missed out on the opportunity to enjoy the serene waters.

Upon becoming aware of the incident, YMCA Fairthorne Manor swiftly collaborated with Southern Water and relevant authorities to conduct necessary water quality tests and ensure safety standards were met before reopening the lake to the public. Southern Water took steps to improve oxygen levels in the stream by installing aerators, and YMCA proactively reached out to lake users to inform them of the situation and necessary precautions.

In February 2023, the Environment Agency took legal action against Southern Water, citing a breach of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations. The outcome of the prosecution resulted in a fine of £330,000 for Southern Water. Find out more here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/stream-polluted-by-negligent-southern-water

Phillipa Spicer, CEO of YMCA Fairthorne Group commented ”YMCA Fairthorne Manor welcomes this legal resolution, emphasising the importance of holding companies accountable for their environmental impact. As a children’s charity, YMCA believes in safeguarding the natural environment and watercourses to continue promoting outdoor learning, development, and adventure activities for the 40,000 annual visitors to the centre”.

This court case highlights the significance of environmental responsibility and underscores the collaborative efforts needed to protect and preserve our natural surroundings for future generations to enjoy.