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Author Topic: Water Charges Threat to Allotments  (Read 41184 times)

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Tinbasher

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Water Charges Threat to Allotments
« on: January 19, 2009, 22:26 »
Does anyone have any info or advice on the new 'non-residential' water charges that have been applied to (our) allotment site(s), by Utd Utilities?  

New ways of charging (ie: more expensive) were applied from April 1st last year for all 'non-residential' customers of property and/or land that had an account with UU, for the purposes of non-metered charges - ie: the Rainfall Tax, as it's now being called.  Instead of going off the old rateable-value calculation to charge for non-metered sewage (rainfall), they have begun to apply a 'site-area' charge, dependant on the size of the site.  The scheme however is being transitionally phased-in over 3 years, so the full impact may not be felt or understood by existing customers.  However, any new customers (since April 2007), which includes our site (only had a connection made last Jan) come onto the new charges in full from April 1st 08.  

Because of an indescribable series of cock-ups with their billing dep't (they tried to charge us for metered foul-sewage over and over, despite being told, and confirming by inspection visit, we had a septic tank, and untold estimated bills), we have only recently got to grips with exactly where we stand, and worked out exactly what we are (and what we're not) being charged for.

According to the new arrangements, we are placed in Band 3 (300 - 649 sq m) and so our non-metered sewage charge for this year should be £545.  This is however split into 2 components (50% each) of Surface Water (rain falling onto your land) and Highway Drainage (draining the streets and roads of, technically, the whole country, or at least the area of the country under control of Utd Utilities.  So including the M6 then in our case -  :( ).  They have waived the Surface Water Charge (£273) as they have accepted the rainfall is onto 'permeable land' (we are an allotment site after all) and drains straight into the earth, rather than is channeled into street and road drains, etc.  But the Highway Drainage Charge has no mechanism for a rebate and there is no process of appeal.  We are then left with a bill for £272 just for Highway Drainage.

It's debatable whether an allotment site (or anyone) should be paying to drain the streets and roads of the land, especially if such a site or property isn't adjacent to any such road or has any roads crossing it.  Ours actually is adjacent to a steet, but still..... All the same, we now have to pay £272 (equal to 9 plots' rent @ £30 each - and there are only 16 plots on site, it isn't that big, the plots are only 30 ft x 30 ft), in addition to the standing charge and meter reading for the water itself.  Our total annual water bill will surely top 300 quid then, maybe £400.  It seems a big proportion to pay out of total rental income of £480.  We have to pay an annual council lease of £135 pa, and we have electric too.  But it seems that water costs will top them all, and considering most of this is for draining the North West highways and byways.....   :?

Has anyone else come across this yet, or knows a way out of it?  I've spoken to the allotment society in the next town, a large site existing since the 1920s, but unfortunately they haven't got to grips with it yet.  They are being phased in over 3 years, so it's even more complex to work out.  But their information to me about the size of their site means they should be placed in Band 11.  Wait for it............ Highway Drainage alone is charged at £35, 843 pa.   :?  

This can't be right, it would obviously mean the death of the site, and I feel I must have gotten something wrong.  But I've got our Allotment Site's water bill in front of me right now, and it says Band 3 and £272 for Highway Drainage.  I also have a booklet from UU, with a full explanation of what the changes mean, complete with site area tables, giving site areas in sq metres, the banding applied and the costs for each band.

Any other Utd Utilities customers here?  How do we get exemption?  We are being treated exactly the same as commercial premises - UU have no other distinction than Residential or Non Residential.  

Recently, articles have been appearing in my free local weekly newspaper on exactly the same issues.  Last week, the local Scouts were appealing for help with a (presumably national) online petition because their premises have been hit with a massive hike in water rates.  The week before it was sports clubs, in particular Cricket Clubs - large site area including entire field, low income, and actually a lot of them all but close for 7 or 8 months a year.  They are starting to be phased into water bills totalling £1000s.  Band 6 for example (3000 - 6999 sq m) is charged at £2867 just for Highway Drainage.
« Last Edit: February 05, 2009, 09:09 by john »


GreenOwl

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Water Charges - Utd Utilities
« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2009, 15:57 »
That is extremely worrying!

Have you contacted your MP?

Bobby

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« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2009, 20:38 »
Thank you for bringing this to our attention.  
  Our site pays rates to UU as well but I have not heard it mentioned at  monthly meetings.
  I have printed off your post and it certainly will be at the next!
  If this utility Co. gets away with it, all the others will follow suit.
  Thanks again Bob.

Tinbasher

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« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2009, 13:01 »
Quote from: "Bobby"
Thank you for bringing this to our attention.  
  Our site pays rates to UU as well but I have not heard it mentioned at  monthly meetings.
  I have printed off your post and it certainly will be at the next!
  If this utility Co. gets away with it, all the others will follow suit.
  Thanks again Bob.


Yes, I've researched a little bit more and the implications are extremely worrying.  A local Cricket Club have had water charges for this year totalling over £4000, rather than a few hundred last year.  Which is serious enough.  However, what the chap I spoke to hasn't realised is that this is only a phasing-in of the new charge, and only represents a third of the change.  This year (Apr 09 - 10) will be charged at two-thirds and from April 2010 they will be on the full charge.  I'm not sure what site band they are in, but it sounds like it could be around Band 6 or 7 (charged by 2010 at £2867 or £5448 pa for Highway drainage alone).  This club has existed for over a century and yet is now severely struggling to pay this charge (on top of all others), and may indeed be forced to close if this situation persists.  Cricket Clubs suffer enough from rain as it is (abandoned matches, etc).  To now be faced with having to pay heavily for this 'privelege' is ludicrous.  This is REAL, it's happening right now.  Everyone needs to check it out - quickly - and add their voice to the concerns.

It's quite alarming that nobody seems to be aware of it or understands it.  No-one I have spoken to has any literature about it.  I however have a booklet from UU which they did send to our allotment group, so the literature is out there, but doesn't seem to have been distributed very much..........hmm.  All the info and costs are however on the UU website.

A local school (I know the secretary) has been placed in Band 6.  Their transitional (one third) cost for this year is £1911 (plus 2/3 of the old rateable-value charge) just for Highway Drainage, to rise to £2867 in 2010.  Add to this the fact they're also liable for the other 50% component - Surface Water - and by 2010 this school alone will be paying £5735 just for rainfall.   That's a lot of money just for rain falling out of the sky - a lot of books, etc.

The allotment site I mentioned in the next town is the most worrying.  They have 144 plots (which startled me, though I knew it was a large site) each at approx 70 x 70 feet each, so 4900 sq ft per plot.  Multiplied by 144 gives a total area of 705,600 sq ft, which by further calculation equals over 65,000 sq metres.  This will place their site in Band 11.  The total Highway Drainage cost by 2010 for Band 11 is to be £35, 843.  Every plot on this site has pathways in between each plot, some of them broad enough for a vehicle.  I don't know the area taken up by these paths and the boundary surrounds, etc, but in total they may easily add enough area to the site to bring it into Band 12 (over 75,000 sq m), which will then incur a drainage charge of £50, 180 pa.  Put another way, that will be just short of £350 pa for every plot holder, just for rainfall on the roads and streets (which are actually nothing to do with allotments)

The unfairness of it all is obvious.  If you are a large site you could incur costs of tens of £000s, equalling several hundred quid each.  A smaller site, whilst still bad enough, would be liable for hundreds of ££s and so 'only' each liable for say £17 (our site @ £272 divided by 16 plots).  A doubling and trebling of site area doesn't double or treble the cost (bad enough) - the leaps in charge from Band to Band are quite staggering.

Apparently, articles about it have recently appeared in The Telegraph and The Times, and I've heard it has been 'mentioned' in Parliament. Mentioned but not acted upon.  Inevitably the Gov't have known about this and must have sanctioned it, so in response to contacting one's MP................. :?

What's galling even more so is that the Water Authorities have spent some time concocting this scheme, and have decided it is 'fairer' than the old rateable value scheme.  Fairer if you're affluent and have a high-value property that is - crushing if you have a low-value or non-profit site.  After much consultation (costing possibly millions), they have submitted this idea and Ofwat (another expensive quango) have agreed it.  How come none of these august and well-paid people have never seen the anomaly that takes 15 minutes to realise, once you start to think about it?  Amateur sports clubs, allotments, Scouts, community premises, etc, etc, not to mention schools - and hospitals.  The latter two get paid out of a budget of public funds and because no private individual is liable, no-one seems to care - or rather to notice.

Because this scheme hasn't been instituted for residential properties, all householders in the land haven't noticed it, despite their own water charges maybe having risen alarmingly over recent years.  If only people were aware of what's going on behind the scenes.  Still, don't hold your breath, cos I can see this scheme, if it persists, being hailed a success in a few years and the same criteria then applied to residential properties too.

Because Ofwat are involved I would think a similar scheme has been applied across the country.  One water authority isn't going to sit by with some cosy old arrangement whilst their neighbouring authority charges millions.  In any case, I've heard that Yorkshire Water and Severn-Trent Water are applying the same.

A couple of other points to note:  Last year Utd Utilties made a profit of.....wait for it........ £1.34 million - per day!  Are not most of our water Authorities (private companies with shareholders) now actually owned by foreign companies?  All our water suppliers, unlike other utility companies, have a monopoly.  We can't opt for change to seek a better deal (though they're all the same when it comes down to it).

I think that this situation could be the most serious threat to allotment sites, above all others.  Poisoned manure or the lack of available land or pressure from housing projects will pale into insignificance compared to water bills of possibly tens of £1000s.  This sounds alarmist but I've seen our site bill, have spoken to a local school and a local sports club - and they have confirmed my worst fears.  As I said, this is REAL.  The cricket club have already received red letters and threats of legal action in connection with overdue four-figure sums.

Looked at overall I perceive this:  The authorities now know that rainfall in this country is a problem.  Look at the huge flooding of areas in our last 2 wet summers.  They know that this problem is likely to increase - all climate-change predictions say that foremost we will become much WETTER as much as warmer.  In addition they have/are/will continue to build on flood plains, thus increasing the drainage problem.  Certain areas have had to have compensation awarded by the gov't (though doubtless insufficient and long-awaited) and in addition cannot now get insurance against flooding.  All this is COST and a social burden, and the authorities have decided it will have to be paid for.........and that we're the ones to do the paying.  The gov't will have been quietly complicit in all of this, but have allowed the water authorities to do the actual charging, so distancing themselves from accusations.  This 'Rainfall Tax' or 'Drainage Tax' is quite possibly the worst Stealth Tax yet concocted, and could well the the 'death' of us all.  Just think - paying a heavy tax, all because it rains a lot.  It sounds ridiculous - but it's true.

Visit the UU website and look for links relating to Non-Metered Sewage Charges, Highway drainage, Surface Water.  You may have to go into the section relating to Business customers (meaning non-res, not just business & commercial - crafty of them to insinuate it's just businesses), rather then Domestic customers.  All the horrors of this new charge are there if you look closely enough.

A final thought:  All these charges I've quoted won't of course ever go down.  They will only ever rise and probably regularly.  Still, £5k, £30k, £50k - who's bothered if they rise 10% next year - we'll already be dead and buried.   :(

And think if you're in Band 15, over 150,000 sq metres, admittedly a large site.  The Rainfall charge (Highway Drainage and Surface Water @ 50% each) totals £162, 893 by 2010 - admittedly a large number.  Even if such a site (and all others) is a business, is it fair that a charge of this magnitude should be applied just because it rains a lot?  Businesses will have no option but to pass on these charges, thus meaning that we will all be paying for it in a roundabout way eventually.

Oscar Too

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« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2009, 13:38 »
Thanks for the heads up and the research you've done.  I'll follow this up with our committee too.

Oscar

wellingtons

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« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2009, 13:51 »
... I've now read the thread and still don't really quite understand the equation or logic Utd Utilities are using to calculate the bill.

But what I do know is you can't change your water company, you're stuck with them like it or not.

I wandered round the OFWAT site and didn't really find anything of any value.  But I would have thought OFWAT would be the people to talk to.

madcat

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« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2009, 14:44 »
The Telegraph is running a campaign on this issue and its impact on sports clubs (sorry havent figured out links yet) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/columnists/brianmoore/4077412/Dont-let-our-local-sports-clubs-go-down-the-drain-because-of-water-charges..html
The RFU and cricketers have hooked up with it.  Perhaps you should approach him to extend the campaign to allotments too?
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richyrich7

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« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2009, 13:49 »
Thanks for bringing this up Tinbasher this is an extremely important issue for plot holders.
Where to go next  :?
I'll certainly bring it up on Sunday with the committee at the society, we are with Severn Trent.

We could start a petition up on the 10 downing street website , there's one there already for charges but that seems to be just for churches.

I'm up for it if someone will help me out with the wording.

making thread a sticky.
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richyrich7

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« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2009, 14:47 »
Quote from: "tinbasher"

They have waived the Surface Water Charge (£273) as they have accepted the rainfall is onto 'permeable land' (we are an allotment site after all) and drains straight into the earth, rather than is channeled into street and road drains, etc. But the Highway Drainage Charge has no mechanism for a rebate and there is no process of appeal. We are then left with a bill for £272 just for Highway Drainage.


I may have got this wrong, but according to the UU charges scheme 2008-2009 pdf on ofwat it reads "
No reduction will be made of the highway drainage part of the charges. This part of the charge has to be borne by all consumers whose premises are connected to the public sewer network

So if your site is not connected in any way shape or form to the sewer network is this a way out ?

LINK section 4.7 paragraph 7 ( pdf page number 26 on my screen)

Bobby

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« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2009, 16:45 »
Thank you Mods for making this a sticky.
  I wonder where local councils stand on this? Most parks, football pitches ect have toilets plumbed into the sewers.Are their vast acreages going to be taken into account?
  Ironically went to allotment this morning and half the plots were flooded and this is in sunny Manchester :roll:   Bob

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« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2009, 18:07 »
Just read this about UU on BBC...

STORY

They've bowed to pressure to freeze the rates for charities. Shows they can back down.

Rob 8)

poultrygeist

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« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2009, 18:57 »
Just found THIS.

University of Liverpool offering pro-bono (free) legal advice for the public good. Thought they may like to get involved as UU are within their area.

Good luck.

Rob 8)

Tinbasher

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« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2009, 02:18 »
Quote from: "richyrich7"
Quote from: "tinbasher"

They have waived the Surface Water Charge (£273) as they have accepted the rainfall is onto 'permeable land' (we are an allotment site after all) and drains straight into the earth, rather than is channeled into street and road drains, etc. But the Highway Drainage Charge has no mechanism for a rebate and there is no process of appeal. We are then left with a bill for £272 just for Highway Drainage.


I may have got this wrong, but according to the UU charges scheme 2008-2009 pdf on ofwat it reads "
No reduction will be made of the highway drainage part of the charges. This part of the charge has to be borne by all consumers whose premises are connected to the public sewer network

So if your site is not connected in any way shape or form to the sewer network is this a way out ?

LINK section 4.7 paragraph 7 ( pdf page number 26 on my screen)



First off, thanks for stickying it.  I was impatient that folk got onto this, and hopefully now they will.

I see what you mean with your quote of theirs, but on thinking - who is actually directly connected to the public sewer network? Or rather who isn't?  All the rainwater that comes off your roof, via your downspouts, all that drains off your driveway, car-park, etc, etc, normally makes its way into the road gullies, down a grid and into the public sewer - itself a misleading term, I prefer to say land drains.  Included also (it's in their literature) is also all run-off into other land gullies and all natural waterways.  If any of your rainwater eventually diverts to a stream or ditch, they have jurisdiction there too - all water authorities are responsible for natural waterways, no matter how small.

Our site has been disregarded for 50% of the drainage charge (surface water) because in effect they have accepted we have NO RUN-OFF onto anywhere as it's all 'permeable land', as they term it.  But still we are charged for Highway Drainage.  Not only do we not have a physical connection to the street (a series of pipes maybe, though that still wouldn't drain every drop that fell), but we are actually percolating all the rain directly into the ground, so there is no general run-off for the road drains to cope with.

The water you put down your sinks, or baths or washing machines, or WC is a different component.  That is rightly termed sewage, and should be known as foul sewage.  It's on different drains, certainly initially.   We have no foul sewage connection (septic tank), despite them trying over and over to charge us for this as well (it took months and a dozen letters and calls).  So in effect we have no disposal of water of any kind into anything they manage.  All we have from them is a 15mm supply standpipe on the border fence, which is in turn spliced to form a supply to a cabin.  We pay for that on a meter, plus a standing charge of course.

It is interesting wording though and worth pursuing.  I'll see what I can make of it, come Monday.

Tinbasher

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Water Charges - Utd Utilities
« Reply #13 on: January 24, 2009, 02:50 »
Quote from: "Bobby"
Thank you Mods for making this a sticky.
  I wonder where local councils stand on this? Most parks, football pitches ect have toilets plumbed into the sewers.Are their vast acreages going to be taken into account?
  Ironically went to allotment this morning and half the plots were flooded and this is in sunny Manchester :roll:   Bob


It's not the toilets (or sinks), or the sewers they feed into that's the issue here.  What they're charging for now is the rainfall, which flows into different drains anyway, the ones down the grid in your street, or the local stream.  And the bigger you are, and so the more rain you 'catch' the more you pay.  It was bad enough paying for this under rateable value schemes, it's even worse now we're paying by the square metre.  Still, whatever they choose to call a collection scheme or however they calculate it, is of little interest as long as it's a few quid a year.  When it suddenly goes to 5 and 10 grand for no material change is when you wonder what's going on.

In effect it's actually a Land Tax, instituted by a private shareholder company, who already make a profit of over £1.3 million a day, and loosely based on something that falls free from the sky anyway.  In fact, we're collecting it for them so as they can use it to purify and sell us back as fresh water, admittedly a good service.  But only the No 1 essential that distinguishes us as 'civilised', 'modern' or 'advanced'.   It should be a pre-requisite for any 21st century society, not a luxury that has to be heavily charged.  It's water for God's sake.  I keep forgetting though - it isn't the water they're supplying to us that's expensive.  It's the rain we're good enough to supply to them.  That's what we're paying for.

The drains are already there, built by industrious Victorians at great labour, eager to prevent flooding in new urban areas, and to avoid cholera and typhoid in the case of foul sewage.  Granted they need maintainance (and have probably been consistently under-maintained over long ages), but .........£1.34 million a day...??

All water companies should be compulsorily re-nationalised forthwith.  If nothing else ever, no-one should be allowed to 'own' water companies or be able to profiteer by them.

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« Reply #14 on: January 24, 2009, 10:44 »
Quote from: "Tinbasher"
All water companies should be compulsorily re-nationalised forthwith.  If nothing else ever, no-one should be allowed to 'own' water companies or be able to profiteer by them.


Without getting too political - I can agree with that! I can see the argument for different electric / gas suppliers although they're really operating as oligopolies but we have no choice of supplier for water and companies have proven they're willing to break the law in pursuit of profit (e.g. Severn Trent )

The World Bank has pushed this 'wonderful' private water ideal on many poor countries, resulting in demands for more money than people earn to provide drinking water and so on. People have died in the resulting troubles.

All that aside, this is really concerning - after all, an allotment site is more like a farm than a property and I doubt there are many that make a 'profit'
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