Thousands of residents in Leighton Buzzard could be overpaying for their water – as it emerges that one woman has just had her monthly payments slashed from £40 to just £2.
Now resident Isabel Edgar Briancon, from the Sandhills estate, is encouraging her neighbours to apply for a rebate from Anglian Water as she says up to 2,000 locals may be forking out for a surface water drainage charge, which they do not need to pay.
The charge covers the cost of taking away and treating surface water that runs from properties into drains. This includes water that flows through gutters or which runs into the road and ends up in the sewer.
But on Sandhills, the surface water drains into the man-made lake at Pratt’s Quarry which was built by Arnold Whites when it constructed the Sandhills estate.
However, rather than alerting affected customers, the onus is on householders to cotton on to the discrepancy and to contact Anglian Water to get their bills reduced.
Isabel, of Kingfisher Drive, was intrigued when she spotted online that one resident had recently challenged the charge successfully.
When she checked her bill, she was also paying the fee. She said: “I contacted Anglian Water because I did not think I had to pay it as all my surface water goes into the man-made lake, they advised me to check and apply online.
“I applied and was successful, it got backdated six years – I think that is the maximum they can back date it.
“I have been living here for six-and-a-half years. I haven’t got a refund of money but my monthly bill has gone down for £40 to £2.”
The mum-of-three wanted to make her neighbours aware and encourage them to apply online as they may not have to pay the surface water drainage charge.
She told the LBO: “I think Anglian Water should be telling their customers about this.
“I bet a lot of people aren’t aware of this and don’t check their bills. It is a simple form, it only took a few minutes.”
Anglian Water say they have been reminding customers – through letters and their website – to contact them if they think they are entitled to a rebate.
A spokesperson for the company said: “Surface water drainage is a complicated network of pipes and has many different owners. In some areas Anglian Water is not responsible for any surface water pipes, but a surface water charge is applicable.
“This may be when water travels from homes through a council owned pipe and is then treated by Anglian Water.
“If a property is only connected to a soakaway, the owner is eligible for a surface water rebate on their water bill.
“If a property is built before 2000, the way to confirm it is connected to a soakaway is by looking at the deeds to the property. Deeds are not accessible to Anglian Water and therefor we rely on our customers to contact us if they think they have a soakaway and are entitled to the rebate.
“Customers whose homes are not connected to the surface water drains are entitled to a reduction on their sewerage bill.
“Since a reduced charge for non-connected properties was introduced we have asked customers to let us know if their charge is incorrect.
“We’ve promoted this through customer letters and leaflets, our website and reminders on their bills, where we ask customers to contact us if they think they have a soakaway and are entitled to the rebate.”
Isabel added: “I haven’t seen anything from Anglian Water about applying for a rebate, but then again I haven’t been looking.
“When I moved in the gas, electric and water were all set up by the developers, I think if Anglian Water know who does not have to pay it, they should be contacting them.
“The company was really quick in responding to me and they said they will send me a breakdown of my bill.
“I recommend that other residents on Sandhills apply.”
The website is: www.anglianwater.co.uk/household/your-account/bills-and-payments/tariffs/reduced-sewerage