CAMPAIGNERS are claiming victory after ASDA made an unexpected U-turn on its plan to dump sewage into a Ferring waterway.
After weeks of campaigning against the superstore’s plan to pump secondary-treated effluent into Ferring Rife, members of Ferring Parish Council, Ferring Conservation Group, Worthing West MP Sir Peter Bottomley and residents have expressed their elation at the news, but vowed it is not the end of their battle with the supermarket giant.
Councillor Carole Robertson, chairman of Ferring Parish Council, said: “We are delighted with this news. It removes a great deal of anxiety and resentment about ASDA’s plans. But there are other issues, not connected with effluent, that we are not satisfied with and we will be pursuing those over the next two weeks.”
Ed Mller, secretary of Ferring Conservation Group, echoed Carole’s sentiments and said: “I am glad that ASDA finally listened to the strong views of local people. I have never seen residents so angry about a development in Ferring.
“I hope they will now listen to our views on other issues like 24-hour opening, light pollution and traffic congestion. The campaign goes on.”
It was at the beginning of February that a member of Ferring Conservation Group stumbled upon an application from the American-owned supermarket to pump its sewage into Ferring Rife, rather than connect to the main sewerage system.
It sparked a campaign in the village, which last week saw members of Ferring Conservation Group present a petition containing more than 1,500 signatures to the Environment Agency (EA), asking it to refuse ASDA’s application.
Last month, during the height of the campaign, representatives from the firm staged a two-day exhibition and public consultation in the village to explain the plans for the new supermarket on the site of the Country Fayre building on the A259 at Ferring, including the sewage proposal.
At the event, there were several heated exchanges between residents and ASDA bosses, and it was the strength of public feeling that led to the store giving up on its application to the EA on Thursday, in favour of connecting to the main sewerage system.
Chris Martin, ASDA senior property communications manager, said: “We said from the outset of our consultation that this would be an open process and we would be listening and learning from the feedback we received. Whilst we remain confident that the on-site sewerage solution is a suitable way to address the challenge of our site being off the main sewerage network, it was clear to us that this was not the preference of residents.
“Further technical studies have been undertaken and we have now submitted applications to Southern Water and Arun District Council in the hope of making a connection to the pubic sewerage network a viable option. Delivery of this proposal is subject to successful negotiations with each of these parties at the earliest opportunity.
“We are grateful to everyone that took the time to visit our consultation and remain committed to working with local people throughout the planning process and beyond.”
Despite the campaigners’ joy at ASDA’s decision, they remain concerned at other issues surrounding the building of the superstore, which will create 540 jobs, particularly surrounding traffic congestion.
Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for Worthing West, said: “Publicity by the Gazette and Herald, together with leadership by local councillors and representations to the Environment Agency by residents, have made the difference.”
But he also warned: “We still have the issues of how ASDA can require a change to traffic arrangements on the A259; we still have the odd situation that a major super store can appear in a country area without a public inquiry – and without a major contribution for public benefit.”