A controversial sewage plant has been approved amid angry protests.

The works, dubbed Poohaven, will be built on the South Downs at Peacheaven.

Protesters threatened to stop paying their water bills as councillors voted for the huge plant by the slimmest of margins of four to three.

Campaigners screamed “traitor” and “shame”

after East Sussex County Council’s planning committee made the decision.

They warned that Southern Water’s £300 million plan for Lower Hoddern Farm, a greenfield site, effectively allows the population of Brighton to “dump” on Peacehaven.

Campaigners opposed to the treatment works vowed to hold further protests. John Hodgson, spokesman for Peacehaven Residents Opposing Urban Development (Proud), said: “Until the company decides to scrap this, people should refuse to pay their bills.”

The sewage plant will be used to treat about 95 million litres of waste water generated by Brighton residents every day before pumping it to Friar’s Bay, Peacehaven.

Katy Hamilton, one of about 50 protesters to pack the meeting at East Sussex County Council’s Lewes headquarters, said: “The people of Brighton are dumping on Peacehaven.

“We are being forced to take all their waste when in reality it should be sorted out in Brighton.”

Proud said demos would now be organised across Peacehaven.

Yesterday’s meeting ends a nine-year struggle by Southern Water to build the facility by 2010 to avoid massive fines for the British Government from the European Union over water cleanliness.

Long delays caused by major opposition means Southern Water will need at least four years to complete construction.

Residents remain convinced the works will look ugly, cause smells and add to horrendous traffic jams on the A259.

Public speakers yesterday claimed alternative brownfield sites were available, including Shoreham harbour.

David Williams, from Peacehaven District Residents Association, said: “The vast majority of residents are opposed to this. Southern Water claims there are no other sites they can use but they must have contingency plans so they must have other sites they can use.”

East Sussex county councillor Simon Kirby, the Tory parliamentary candidate for Brighton Kemptown, said: “Peacehaven is a totally inappropriate place for a sewage works. I am absolutely gutted the planning committee has ignored residents’ concerns.”

His Labour opponent Simon Burgess said: “I’m appalled at this decision.

This new sewage works should always have been built on a brownfield site such as Shoreham harbour.”

Councillor Michael Tunwell, planning committee chairman, voted in favour of the plan. He said: “We could all point to other sites and say ‘well it could go there’ but wherever it goes there’s going to be objections. In my opinion there are no better locations available.”

Councillor Godfrey Daniel, who also voted in favour, said: “The experience from elsewhere is that, once built, people forget about them and the issue settles down. This is not a perfect solution but there is no perfect solution.”

Southern Water says the works are crucial for it to improve water quality and comply with EU laws.

David Jobbins, from the firm, said: “There has been an exhaustive site search exercise and Lower Hoddern Farm is the most suitable.”

He said Peacehaven would benefit from a sports pavilion and 34-acre park as part of legal agreements surrounding the plan.

The decision will now be sent to Hazel Blears, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, who has the final say. She is unlikely to reject the plan ministers previously said they broadly approved.

They rejected a previous application last year, partly because of the way the plant looked. Southern Water has since made major amendments and claims it will now blend with its rural surroundings.

The proposal

The sewage works will require a large building at Lower Hoddern Farm but many do not realise there are substantial other works associated with it. They include: An 11km pipe built between Black Rock, Brighton, and the works, enabling waste water to be pumped from the city to the plant.

A 2.5km pipe from Lower Hoddern Farm to Friar’s Bay, tunnelled under homes.

Two underground pumping stations at Marine Drive, Brighton, and Portobello waste treatment works, Telscombe Cliffs.

New underground shafts at sites including Brighton Marina; Roedean Way, Roedean; Greenways, Ovingdean; West Street car park, Rottingdean; land next to Saltdean Lido; land at Hamsey Road, Saltdean and the Meridian Centre car park, Peacehaven.


  • 1999: Southern Water shortlists four sites for the waste water treatment plant. They include Newhaven East, Newhaven North, Ovingdean and Lower Hoddern Farm.
  • 2003: Lower Hoddern Farm is confirmed as first choice for the works by Southern Water after an extensive evaluation programme. The then mayor of Peacehaven, Pauline Howard, vows to fight the plan.
  • 2003: The first of many protests are held over the issue.
  • 2004: Consultations on the plan begin and an exhibition goes on display.
  • 2005: The first planning application is submitted to East Sussex County Council.
  • 2006: The issue goes to a public inquiry
  • 2007: The Government throws out the planning application but crucially acknowledges the need for the facility and makes recommendations to Southern Water to improve the scheme.
  • 2007: The firm lodges a second planning application with improved landscaping of the site.
  • 2008: Scheme granted by East Sussex County Council.
  • What next

  • 2008-09: Hazel Blears is expected to start looking at the decision in the next month but she may not make a decision until early next year.
  • 2009: Ms Blears is expected to approve the plan and work could then start soon after but the plant will take up to four years to build.
  • 2012-13: A daily deluge of 95 million litres of sewage due to begin being pumped from Brighton to Peacehaven.

Click here to watch archive footage of the meeting

Don't miss your chance to quiz Damon Elliott, project director for Southern Water, in tomorrow's Friday Inquisition