Monday, November 18th, 2019

South East Water prepares to announce route of much needed new pipeline in Sevenoaks – but action group says it must not go through Knole Park

The route of a major new trunk water main in Sevenoaks is to be announced by South East Water on Thursday 12 September. Increased demand for water, fuelled by population growth, means that a current pipe is operating at maximum capacity and needs to be supported by a second pipe.

Residents who are opposed to the water main going through Knole Park claim the area still bears the scars from the last time it was dug up.

Without this, parts of Sevenoaks will experience low pressure or no water at all during peak summer demand within the next 10 years. The new trunk main will supplement the existing 12-inch pipe laid in Sevenoaks’ High Street in the 1950s (see main photo below) and work is due to start in April 2020.

South East Water has been holding consultations over the past eight months to identify the best route for the new water main. High Street shopkeepers and business owners are keen to avoid the digging up of any of the main roads through Sevenoaks as this will severely affect trade for several weeks.

But talk of an alternative route through Knole Park has also met with opposition and a number of concerned residents have formed themselves into an action group. A few months ago, they launched a petition (see link at end of story) which opposes any plans to dig up the historic park.

Last year South Easter Water circulated a questionnaire about the project to build the new water pipeline to around 9,500 residents. It says it also spoke directly to 168 local businesses.

The action group members are unhappy that the water company claimed the results of the questionnaire confirmed the majority of people who replied were in favour of the pipe being built in the park as it would create the least disruption to the High Street and town.

The action group believes most residents in Sevenoaks are entirely unaware of the Knole Park proposal and say this is reflected by the small number of people who replied to the questionnaire or attended drop-in sessions held by South East Water.

In a statement to My Sevenoaks Community, the group said: “So many people frequent Knole Park. This idyllic setting is loved by residents and visitors alike and it shouldn’t be taken for granted.

“Knole Park and the Knole Estate as a charity and private landowners are legally not allowed to sway the decision making or force any particular route option. If the National trust had highlighted the situation in their magazine, on their website or generally just around the Park, there may have been a very different discussion about the environment.

Knole Park must be protected say members of a local action group.

“There are already existing pipelines that go through both the High Street and through Knole Park. The difference is that the High Street and the town can be completely returned to normal after such engineering works, as it is man-made and purpose built for such issues. However, there are still visible scars in Knole Park from the last pipeline that was built there, and if it is dug up again, the park will be slow to heal.

“Knole is a haven to hundreds of types of fungi and huge amounts of insects which are vital to our environment. It is incredibly important for us to protect this wildlife, especially as It has been reported that our insect population is in a dramatic decline, which hugely effects our environment.

Paul Beaumont, Project Manager at South East Water, said: “During our public consultation which we started in December, we spoke to hundreds of Sevenoaks residents, businesses and members of local interest groups about the need for this new pipe and the proposed route options.

“We also have carried out a series of ground investigation surveys on all the routes we put forward to provide the technical information needed to identify the most suitable route. The final decision was based on a range of factors including the impact on the environment, engineering difficulty and socio-economic effect along with cost implications and work duration.”

Residents can find out the location of South East Water’s preferred route on 12 September at a drop-in session between 4pm to 7pm at the St Nicholas’ Church Undercroft in Sevenoaks (TN13 1JA). More details can be found at: corporate.southeastwater.co.uk/Sevenoaks

Paul Beaumont added: “We look forward to welcoming as many local people as possible to this information meeting.”

For more details on the petition and information about the specific damage the Knole Park action group says will be caused by the pipeline CLICK HERE

* South East Water is currently involved in the rebuilding of the Solefields reservoir, another major project to ensure the future of the water supply to Sevenoaks. To see the story on My Sevenoaks Community, CLICK HERE

Sevenoaks businesses are keen to avoid similar scenes when the installation of a water main in Upper High Street during the 1950s caused major disruption to local trade.

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