Sewage Crisis Sparks Controversy in Guildford Election

Angela Richardson, the Conservative deputy chair and MP for Guildford, has sparked controversy by referring to the sewage situation as a “political football” and alleging that opposition parties and campaigners are putting Tory MPs at risk through their activism. During a hustings event arranged by Zero Carbon Guildford, Richardson proposed that the matter gained attention solely because “the Conservatives made it widely known.”

Richardson, who is running for re-election in Guildford, where the River Wey recently exhibited E. coli levels that were ten times higher than the acceptable threshold, justified her party’s performance in addressing sewage spills. She asserted that the opposition’s criticisms were grounded in ineffectual suggestions and detailed a 2021 episode at her residence involving police helicopters and sniffer dogs as a result of protestors’ activities.

The disclosure that untreated waste was released into England’s watercourses for a total of 3.6 million hours in 2023, surpassing the previous year’s amount by more than twofold, has intensified the problem during the election campaign. Last year, the Rivers Trust discovered that sewage was discharged for a total of 1,372 hours in the Guildford constituency. Recent testing have shown that the levels of E. coli were alarmingly high.

Feargal Sharkey, an environmental activist, strongly criticised Richardson’s remarks, accusing the administration of deflecting responsibility and neglecting to tackle environmental deterioration. Surfers Against Sewage reiterated these feelings, emphasising the potential health hazards caused by contaminated seas and the significance of holding elected officials responsible.

Richardson justified her performance, emphasising the government’s initiatives to oversee storm overflows and accusing her adversaries of deceiving the public. She verified the 2021 police reaction, ascribing it to reliable intelligence in the wake of MP David Amess’s assassination, and emphasised that no elected official should experience a sense of insecurity while doing their duties to their voters.

As the election approaches, the government’s management of the sewage crisis continues to be a subject of disagreement, with opposition parties expressing criticism.