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Crawley residents will now be able to access a drive-through bottled water station if supply incidents occur

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Southern Water, a main supplier of water throughout Crawley and Sussex undertook a Covid-19 focussed training exercise to practice changes to the bottled water supply process required if a mains water supply incident occurs.

On Tuesday 30 June, 40 staff members from across Southern Water, Water Direct, MTS and Double R traffic management assembled in the pouring rain at the companies Falmer, Brighton-based office to re-enact an incident with test drive-through bottled water collection points.

The idea was born after a recent mains burst in Hastings at the beginning of lockdown, which saw the incredible delivery of over 35,000 litres of bottled water to customers who needed it. But thanks to the speed of the challenging repair the drive-through delivery system proposed to support social distancing was not needed.

Tom Hales, Southern Water Emergency Planner, says:

“While the Southern Water response in Hastings was praised by Defra among other partners, the challenge of delivering bottled water to large numbers of customers who couldn’t leave the house was clear. Normally we deliver to vulnerable customers only and ask others to collect from a bottled water station – but these stations would mean people breaching social distancing guidelines, hence the drive-through solution being proposed.

Hale adds:

“Even with lockdown easing, social distancing is still key to keeping customers and Southern Water employees safe, and the only way to ensure we can run a drive-through bottled water station under those circumstance is to practice it as close to real life as possible.”

Paul Riordan, Operational Resilience and Response Manager, was delighted by the way the exercise went.

“Conditions were terrible but our participants kept their enthusiasm, and we have learned a lot about the challenges of doing things in a completely new way.”

If ever needed the new Covid-19 drive-through stations get set up around lorries containing pallet-loads of emergency water supplies, with signage erected to ensure traffic is managed safely.

As cars arrive a team member checks with the driver, from a distance through the window, how many people are in the household. This is signalled to a loader who simply puts the right number of bottles into the car boot, and the car departs.

To make the exercise realistic a few spanners were thrown into the works: a breakdown in a traffic lane and the odd frustrated customer lent realism to the event. While directing staff kept a close eye on what was going on – searching for glitches and hiccups and ensuring that health and safety was paramount.

“We aim to keep customers in supply at all times and everyone in the company works hard to achieve that. But with thousands of miles of pipeline and hundreds of water supply works and storage reservoirs, there can never be a guarantee. By drilling and practicing, we try to mitigate any problems and demonstrate to customers that we are a company that cares about their well-being, have alternatives plans in place during Covid-19, and is always ready to respond in a professional manner.” Paul Riordan concludes.

Business

‘It’s not nearly enough funding’ warns Crawley Council as business grant applications open

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Eligible businesses can now apply for the latest round of business grants but Crawley Borough Council says the funding is not nearly enough.

Despite Crawley being responsible for 25 per cent of the economic output in West Sussex, it has been given some of the lowest grant funding in the county.

The government has given the council £3,733,396 made up of:

  • £1,485,216 in Local Restrictions Support Grant to distribute to businesses that pay business rates and have had to close during the second lockdown
  • £2,248,180 in Additional Restrictions Grant, which is given to businesses that don’t pay business rates and have been affected by the lockdown but not legally required to close.

Out of seven local authorities in West Sussex, only one received less than Crawley’s combined grants figure. Five councils received more.

The Additional Restrictions Grant is based on £20 per person in Crawley rather than the number of businesses in the town. This means that Arun District Council, for example, has received £3,215,160 due to a larger population but smaller economy.

And only one council in West Sussex received less than Crawley across both rounds of grant funding in April and November. Crawley received a total of £17,167,646. The highest – Chichester District Council – received £43,739,396.

In the first round of grants earlier this year only 23 per cent of Crawley businesses received financial help from the government.

Councillor Peter Lamb, Leader of the Council, said:

“The pot of grant funding provided by the government is very limited and does not recognise the number of businesses we have in Crawley.

“The way the grant settlement is calculated – on population and not on the size of the economy – means we have to turn most businesses away, while other councils have millions to spare. This is causing major hardship at a time when Crawley is already the hardest-hit economy in the UK.”

Businesses that have had to close during the second lockdown can apply for a Local Restrictions Support Grant by visiting https://grantapproval.co.uk

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