Belfast Telegraph

Burst pipes lead to water shortages and closure of Jaguar Land Rover plants

Water firms are facing criticism from the regulator for an apparent planning failure ahead of freezing weather.

Water shortages caused by burst pipes have led to problems for thousands of properties and the closure of two of manufacturing giant Jaguar Land Rover’s UK plants.

The car firm said it was stopping production at its Solihull plant from Monday evening and Castle Bromwich site from Tuesday morning, after being advised that they needed to limit water supply.

Severn Trent said it had been working closely with the company and that it had “agreed to stop production to help us target our supply”.

A Jaguar Land Rover spokeswoman, who said that at any one time there are 10,000 employees at the Solihull site and 3,000 at Castle Bromwich, could not confirm when the plants would re-open.

She added: “We are closely monitoring the situation.”

Thousands of properties in south east England have been affected, with Thames Water saying 5,000 were having issues, while Welsh Water said 4,500 customers were affected.

On Monday Thames Water, Affinity Water, South East Water and Southern Water all urged customers who do have running water only to use it where essential.

Severn Trent, which could not give a figure for the properties affected, said it had experienced an “unprecedented” number of burst pipes and had its treatment works “at full pelt” to get water out to customers.

Firms supplied bottled water at affected sites but such was the demand that some stations temporarily ran out.

While firms said they are doing their best to fix leaks and repair bursts amid milder conditions which followed the deep freeze of last week, the regulator has criticised some companies for an apparent planning failure.

Ofwat chief executive Rachel Fletcher said: “While the recent severe freeze and thaw have undoubtedly had an impact on pipes and infrastructure, this weather was forecast in advance. A number of water companies appear to have fallen well short on their forward planning and the quality of support and communication they’ve been providing, leaving some customers high and dry.”

She added they may take action after supply is restored if firms are found not to have had “the right structures and mechanisms in place to be resilient enough”.

It follows criticism from Environment Minister Michael Gove last week, who warned water firms to clean up their act or face tougher regulation.

He told company bosses they had not been acting “in the public interest”, accusing some of “playing the system for the benefit of wealthy managers and owners”.

Streatham MP Chuka Umunna said he would be raising the water supply issue for his area and other parts of the UK in Parliament, while a Labour party colleague on Lambeth council tweeted a letter he said had been written to Mr Gove calling for an inquiry into Thames Water’s handling of the situation.

Councillor Mohammed Seedat tweeted: “Thames Water have shown they are not fit to manage London’s water network. Enough is enough – @JenniferBrathwa and I are calling on the government to step in.”

A number of schools could not open on Monday due to water issues.

A spokeswoman for Thames Water said they were “grateful” to those who had heeded their low usage warning and asked for continued co-operation from customers.

Meanwhile, the military was deployed to take emergency supplies – including food and fuel – to parts of Cumbria which have been left isolated following heavy snowfall that blocked roads.

Most parts of the UK are thawing out, the Met Office said, after the barrage of snow that hit the country last week.

As temperatures rise above freezing elsewhere, eastern parts of Scotland remain subject to a snow warning, meteorologist Martin Bowles said.

He said while the thaw in the south east has been quick, the rapid rise in temperature is not unusual.

“It’s fairly quick but usually when you get a cold spell it will go up by 5 or 10 degrees in one or two days,” he said.

There are currently 28 flood alerts in place, mainly in the south west and west of England.

A timber firm in East Sussex suffered thousands of pounds worth of damage after a pipe burst, a woman from the company said.

Trudy Holman tweeted: “Sussex Timber Products Ltd in Crowborough burst pipe causing thousands of pounds of damage spent from early hours sat morning till sunday mid day pulling down ceilings and pulling out kitchens and carpets ruined new doors all been newly refurbished.”

Temperatures rose over the weekend after the Beast from the East and Storm Emma brought a deep cold snap during last week, which saw the first day of meteorological spring.

Following a low of -5.6C (21.92F) in London last week, the mercury hit 11.2C (52F) in the capital on Monday.

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