A flood of customers claiming they were being overcharged by Anglian Water following an LBO article, appears to have led to the company mailshotting a Leighton estate to rectify the issue.
Anglian Water had previously stated in the small print of letters and its website it was up to residents to check their deeds and contact them if they believed they shouldn’t be paying the surface water drainage charge.
But now the water firm has taken more direct action and has been sending letters to Sandhills customers and giving them a refund or reductions on future bills.
Many were unaware that they did not need to pay the charge because the surface water drains into the man-made lake at Pratt’s Quarry.
The company also hadn’t adopted the drainage network from developers.
The surface water 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.
An Anglian Water spokesperson said: “We have been investigating the surface water drainage network on Sandhills Estate in Leighton Buzzard and can confirm that before last summer Anglian Water didn’t have any responsibility for the surface water drainage on the Pratts Quarry area of the estate.
“All affected residents have been contacted and any that have made an overpayment for surface water drainage before August 2016 will be refunded directly to their bank account or by cheque. Anglian Water has already taken responsibility for some parts of the surface water drainage on the estate and will be billing customers connected to these parts of the network.
“Other customers who are not connected, will be charged for sewerage services only. Once we have taken responsibility for the outstanding parts of the drainage network they’re connected to we’ll contact them and their bill will reflect these changes.
“In this instance it’s usual for Anglian Water to assume responsibility for surface water drainage from the developers of the estate and we’ll be working closely to adopt the sewers and drainage network.
“Our engineers are regularly inspecting the network and making sure it is working as it should before it’s adopted. The adoption process is a standard process across England and Wales.
“We are sorry for any confusion this may have caused and we’re working towards having all customer accounts updated by March 1.
“Customers who’ve been affected can contact us via our dedicated email address firstname.lastname@example.org.”
But Maria Strong, of Plover Road, feels Anglian Water should have contacted customers sooner.She said: “I think the letter is to everyone on Sandhills because we applied for our reduction on the bill about five years ago, so it would be a bit strange to send it to just us now.
“There are a number of people on Sandhills who have received the letter, and even some of those who applied online and were told they were not entitled to it, are now getting the surface water taken off their bill.
“Anglian Water should have done this a long time ago, we applied in 2011/2012 and had to send off plans, so they knew then which roads and areas would not have to pay the surface water drainage charge.
“But they have waited until now, when a lot of people are contacting them and applying for the reduction, it is easier for them now to roll it out to those that it applies to.”