Water firm offers compensation after five-day outage

Southern Water is to compensate businesses and community groups after thousands were left without water in East Sussex for five days.

The outage, which coincided with the May Day Bank Holiday weekend, affected 32,500 properties in Hastings and St Leonards.

At the time, East Sussex County Councillor Godfrey Daniel said it would have a “huge impact” at what was normally a busy time for hotels, pubs and restaurants, and as businesses struggled with the cost of living.

Southern Water’s director of water Tim McMahon said he hoped the £1m compensation fund would "make a positive difference".

The water outage happened as the annual Jack in the Green Festival and May Day Bike Run were being held, events which attract thousands of visitors.

Families turned to bottled water supplies, with some collecting rain water, and one hotel in Hastings was flushing toilets with sea water, after a pipe burst in isolated woodland.

Mr Daniel had called on Southern Water to acknowledge the issues in people’s water bills.

Earlier this week, the Consumer Council for Water (CCW) watchdog revealed water companies in England and Wales wanted bills to increase between 24% and 91% over the next five years - with Southern Water asking for the biggest jump of 91%,

The cash includes £120,000 for festivals and events, £500,000 for community projects and £380,000 for businesses.

Laurence Bell, owner of the White Rock Hotel, said: "It was £15,000 to £20,000 that we lost over that weekend.

"So actually £380,000 over all the businesses of Hastings - I don't know how much anybody's going to get out of this and who's going to decide."

John Bownas, Hastings town centre manager, said: "It has to be about that long-term investment.

"It has to be about potentially looking back to last year at some of the events that took place, particularly the January floods where they have not paid out any compensation yet, to see if there's some way that cash-strapped businesses can be helped through the next year or so."

Mr McMahon said: “Those who are most impacted, particularly the hospitality sector, are getting a payment between eight and ten times more than they would have got if we were meeting our statutory obligations.

"So we are paying more than we would normally do.

"What we are saying to customers though on a case-by-case basis, if they are not happy, particularly if their insurers aren’t covering loss of earnings which they should have, we will review that."

The company said that all eligible businesses will be contacted directly and the company will be in contact with community recipients in the coming weeks.

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