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THE Island’s MP is asking Southern Water to agree to arbitration to resolve the long running dispute about water charges between Southern Water in Gatcombe and Chillerton following a debate in the House of Commons last night. 

Andrew Turner raised the issue as villagers and Southern Water reached a stalemate where it seemed the only option open to the villagers was to take Southern Water to court to obtain what they believe are their legal rights.

The 1907 Seely Agreement at the heart of the dispute says that ‘any questions or differences whatsoever’ between the two parties should be decided by arbitration.  But Southern Water, who have taken over the benefits and liabilities of the agreement have so far refused to agree to the process.

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Mr Turner said: “If Southern Water are so certain they are in the right why won’t they enter into arbitration?  They know there is no realistic prospect of them being taken to court by the ‘little people’ and they also know that their regulator has refused to get involved.  They are interpreting the law to be what they want it to be, and riding roughshod over my constituents.  Southern Water is a huge, monopoly supplier and that is disgraceful.

“I have asked them this morning to agree to arbitration, but have had no answer as yet.  Last night James Paice MP, the DEFRA Minister answering my debate said it would be ‘a sensible and logical step’ and he ‘strongly urged’ both sides to enter into the process; my constituents are perfectly willing to do that.

“If Southern Water continues to ignore such eminently reasonable advice then I call on their Chief Executive, Matthew Wright to attend a public meeting on the Island to explain why.  He can also bring along his lawyers if he likes and they can explain how a legal agreement signed for 999 years is no longer valid after just over 100 years.  I fear they are being so intransigent because there may be other examples of them ignoring the law – perhaps this is just the tip of the iceberg!”

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