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Sewerage battle a big drain’ on council coffers

PUBLISHED: 16:34 05 August 2009 | UPDATED: 15:37 16 August 2010

TAXPAYERS will have to foot the bill for a sewer left leaking for over a year because of a row over who owns it. Nobody wants to take responsibility for a collapsed drain in Layhams Road, West Wickham, which has been spewing sewerage and causing a publi

TAXPAYERS will have to foot the bill for a sewer left leaking for over a year because of a row over who owns it.

Nobody wants to take responsibility for a collapsed drain in Layhams Road, West Wickham, which has been spewing sewerage and causing a public health risk for months.

At first, it was thought that Thames Water had a duty to fix it because their manhole cover was attached. But after investigation, it was discovered it was not the legal owner.

It is now believed that a nearby school and two churches are responsible, but Bromley council won't release their names because of an ongoing legal case.

Environmental officer at Bromley council, Dean Powell, said: "We have to go through the process of establishing the legal owner and serving a notice to them to fix it. It is not ideal. It is an unusual situation."

While the bureaucratic battle has been ongoing, Bromley council has been pumping the drain to prevent it from leaking constantly, which Mr Powell claimed would "cost an awful lot of money".

Asked whether the owners would be liable for repaying those costs, Mr Powell said: "No, probably not. The council will foot it."

Resident David Carroll, 58, from Addington Village, walked past it on Tuesday and confirmed sewerage was still spilling from it.

He said: "It's a lot of water. It looks like someone has left a hosepipe on. It has been like that for over a year. It was particularly bad during the big freeze - it was hazardous."

Thames Water said rows like this are happening all over the country and that as a result, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will change legislation in 2011 to make water companies liable for private drains.

A spokesperson said: "We apologise to residents for any inconvenience this has caused.

"A Thames Water cover was wrongly fitted to the drain which is in fact private and serves the nearby school and church.

"Part of the drain has collapsed which is causing the leak. Unfortunately, as it's on a private pipe, both properties are responsible for the repair.

"We have met the environmental health officer from Bromley council who has informed both properties of this."

A spokesperson for Bromley council said: "We are considering carrying out the work and trying to recoup the costs."

kate.nelson@archant.co.uk


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