Impact of 31,000 East Sussex properties without water ‘drastic’ for businesses

The impact of 31,000 properties being without water in East Sussex will be “drastic” for businesses, as it falls on an annual festival which thousands usually attend, a councillor has said.

Southern Water said the disruption in St Leonards-on-Sea and some areas of Hastings, due to a burst water main, started on Thursday and is expected to continue into Sunday.

One hotel in Hastings has resorted to flushing toilets with sea water, East Sussex County Councillor Godfrey Daniel said.

Schools, a leisure centre and a theatre in the area have been forced to close.

And this weekend is the annual four-day Jack In The Green Festival in Hastings and the May Day Bike Run, both of which see an estimated 40,000 visitors flock to the area, the councillor added.

Councillor Daniel said Southern Water’s reputation “couldn’t be much lower” as he called for the company to deliver water to the streets affected.

“They should put bottles of water outside everybody’s door, we pay enough water rates,” he said.

“The state of our country, where you can’t turn on the tap and expect to see water.”

Councillor Daniel added: “This weekend is one of the biggest, usually we get 25,000 bikers coming on the same day as the Jack In The Green celebration.

“It’s always the busiest day for the hotels, pubs, the restaurants, this will have a huge impact on them.

“One hotel is using sea water to flush the toilets, bottled water will only go so far in that respect.

“I’ve had people ringing me saying I don’t drive, how do I get to these places (the bottled water stations).

“I’m elderly myself, I couldn’t carry the big bottles.”

Councillor Daniel said he hopes Southern Water “acknowledge it in people’s water bills”.

“The impact on the town will be drastic, a lot of people will lose a lot of money,” he added.

“These businesses are struggling as it is with the cost of living crisis.

“This is a big weekend, they probably make more money over the weekend than in weeks.”

Southern Water has opened water bottle stations at Asda and Tesco in St Leonards-on-Sea, Sea Road in Hastings and Hastings Academy in Hastings.

The company said it is delivering bottled water to more than 6,000 customers on its priority services register – but in an update on Saturday morning added that some customers on the list are still waiting for deliveries.

The company added that the burst main is located in Keeper’s Wood, near the A21, “deep in woodland”, which is making it difficult for crews and machinery to reach it.

Lesley Arshad lives in St Leonards, is disabled and told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that she has been left off the priority list by the water company.

She said she contacted the company to be put on the priority list last year and was sent a letter confirming it, but when she rang on Thursday to ask for water was told she was not on the priority list.

She said: “I rang the customer service representative and he said that I wasn’t on the list and I said that I had received a letter from Southern Water to say that I was.

“He said ‘oh it’s probably because you live in a flat’ but he said I would get some water but not sure when I would get it.”

A spokesperson for Southern Water said they have been in touch with Ms Arshad and will be delivering water to her on Saturday.

They added: “We’re supplying more than 6,000 vulnerable customers who are on our priority service register in the affected area, and will investigate any issues where people who are on our list to receive water haven’t.”

Peter Haldane, 43, of The Highlands Inn Hotel & Bar, told the Telegraph he had to queue for three hours to collect 30 bottles of water.

He said there was no running water at the hotel, which expects to lose thousands of pounds in revenue.

“We had 10 rooms fully booked and we’re expecting that nine will cancel. That’s £100 a night.

“They are well within their rights to cancel. We don’t have working toilets or showers.”

Jon Smalldon, 46, who has lived in Hastings for 10 years, said his family has 24 two-litre bottles of water which they are having to ration.

He told the PA news agency: “We have a couple of dogs and a cat as well so they’re now included in the rationing.

“It’s not great, it’s not ideal at all but it’s not disastrous for us.”

He added: “Across the town there’s frustration that this has happened, it’s not the first time Southern Water has caused problems for Hastings and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

“We all just want it to end and we want to know when the pipe will be fixed and when it’s going to be back to normal.”

The White Rock Theatre was closed on Friday due to the water supply issue.

Summerfields Leisure Centre posted on Facebook saying it was closed on Saturday.

Churchwood Primary Academy and St Paul’s Church of England Academy in St Leonards were also closed on Friday.

A spokesperson for Southern Water said they are “deeply sorry” for the loss of supply and they have been “working around the clock to not only fix the issue, but also do all we can to help our customers, especially those who are vulnerable”.

They said: “If you are a vulnerable customer, or need access to water for medical reasons, and have not received a water delivery or had yours stolen, please call 0330 303 0368 to let us know we need to help.

“We use bottled water stations to help us get water to as many of our customers as quickly as we can.

“In response to feedback, we opened a fourth station today and are grateful to our own people and others for their hard work volunteering and the various businesses letting us use their car parks.

“We do appreciate not everyone can get to them and we’re working with local communities to find additional ways to ensure access to water. It’s worth noting we also have 21 tankers in the area supplying health care venues, care homes and other sites of importance.

“Our engineering teams worked through the night to remove the broken pipe and replace it. Now the repair is completed we are recharging our network.

“It’s a complicated process getting everything going again, so this will take time and we expect disruption to continue over the weekend. We will keep on doing all we can to support customers in the meantime.”