Scottish Water told to compensate Ayrshire residents over pumping station
The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) has ordered Scottish Water to compensate residents living near a pumping station for the loss of value it has caused to their homes.
In the first case of its kind, the ombudsman said the utility firm had not done enough to address concerns about noise and vibrations coming from the pumping station, in North Ayrshire, since its construction nine years ago.
It ordered the utility to arrange for annual structural surveys of the houses affected for the next five years and to pay for any structural repair required – but also to engage the District Valuer to establish any loss of house value and to compensate residents for this. It is the first time the ombudsman has made such a recommendation.
The complaint concerns a pumping station built by Scottish Water within the vicinity of the complainant (Mr C) and his neighbours' properties.
The station was much larger than the existing facility and discharged the sewage differently, with the aim of reducing discharge levels. Despite strong local objections being raised during the planning process, construction began in 2006. There was significant disruption and damage during the building work, and after the station began operating there was further disruption due to repeated pump failures.
Mr C said that during the public consultation carried out prior to commencing the project Scottish Water had provided assurances that following completion of the construction phase of the project, residents would experience no further disruption. He complained that residents had in fact suffered continuous disruption over a period of nine years. This had caused residents distress and inconvenience and had resulted in documented structural damage to some properties.
Mr C said residents continued to experience noise and vibration from the pumping station and he complained that Scottish Water's actions had blighted the value of residents' properties, depriving them of a significant financial asset.
While the Ombudsman upheld the residents’ complaints, it did not agree with the residents demand for Scottish Water to relocate the station.
Commenting on the report, Peter Farrer, Chief Operating Officer, Scottish Water, said: “We have received this report by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman and are already taking a number of steps to carry out the recommendations. We would like to offer our sincere apologies to these customers for the distress and inconvenience they have suffered as a result of this pumping station issue.
“The pumping station is now working as it should be and we have introduced new procedures to ensure any issues are responded to, and dealt with quickly. The pumping station is designed to take waste water away from the busy main beach location and ensure the coastal waters are clean and safe.
“The problems associated with this pumping station and its effects on a number of our customers in the area should have been identified and dealt with much earlier. We apologise for this delay. This was the result of a number of complex and unusual issues at this pumping station which is part of the area’s vital wastewater network.
“We are taking the lessons learned at this location into our wider investment programme to ensure a similar problem does not arise in the future. We would hope to start rebuilding the customers’ trust in us as we carry out monitoring and management of this pumping station in the future.”
The Ombudsman’s full report can be read here.
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