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Staff member
The Penzance Town Council proposed to borrow £24,000 to upgrade the sewage system within Penzance. August 1930

Mr. H. E. Byrne, of the Ministry of Health, held an enquiry at the Council Chamber, on Tuesday 2nd August 1930, into an application by the Penzance Corporation to borrow approximately £24,400 for carrying out improvements to the sewerage of Penzance. In the absence of the Mayor, who was engaged on other public work, the Deputy Mayor (Ald. Howell Mabbott) gave an official welcome to the inspector.

The Town Clerk (Col. T. H. Cornish) in putting the application before the inspector, said that it was an engineering matter, and it would be absurd and ridiculous for him to attempt in any way to try to explain or criticise the plans which would be submitted. "They have involved an enormous amount of work," proceeded Col. Cornish. "We have been fortunate here to have had a borough surveyor quite capable of tackling this particular job. It is not a matter that has been done in a hurry”, and Mr. Latham has practically done the whole work himself. Fortunately, he has been with us sufficiently long to be conversant with the sewers running through Penzance, and the discharging pipes, so that he was able to get to work in a way that probably no outside man would have been able to do for a very long time. The plans are here, and I think you will agree with me ''that they have been prepared and dealt with by a man of ability. One important thing in connection with this work which has had to be done, and that has never been done before, and which affects the Board of Trade as much as anybody else, and that is a series of tide-tests which had to be taken, particularly at the outlet of the sewer at the western end of the town. These tide-tests had to be taken daily over a period of 27 days January and February last. No less than 43 of these had to be taken and on some occasions, three or four times a day. That a man should do this, and satisfy the authorities above, and especially the Board of Trade, I think he is deserving of complimentary reference at this enquiry.

"For the sake of convenience," proceeded Col. Cornish, "I think we may divide this application into two sections, A, and B, and include them both in the same application, to make the £24,000. Section A deals with the sewer that runs under the G.W.R. station. The position there is a little different to what it is in regard to section B, which deals with the more general sewerage of the town. Section B is really not a matter, at the present moment, that can regard as crying urgency. There is no general report that, owing to the condition of the sewers of Penzance, the health of the public is being affected, or that the general amenities of the town are suffering. But these sewers have been down for a long period of years; I understand since 1854. They are doing their work, and there is reason to think that they will fail to do their work for considerable time to come. But acting in accordance with the circulars which have been received from the Unemployment Grants Committee and the general statements of the Ministry in the House of Commons, under which public bodies are being asked to accelerate works which in the course of time it will be necessary to carry out, in order to give work for the unemployed, the Penzance Town Council thought that as they had to deal with section A. it would be desirable that they should also re-lay the sewers in section B. This is desirable, although, as I say, it is not imperative, but it would be a pity if this opportunity is lost, and the Government do not see their way to allow this loan to go through for section B, because in the course a few years, may be 10, or a little longer, or a little less, there is a feeling in the minds of the Council that something will have to be done and that we shall have to go in for a rather large and expensive scheme for dealing with these sewers, as the houses are growing in number. So I say that while section B is not imperative, it is highly desirable, and the opportunity of acquiring the Government grant should not be missed, in the interests of the ratepayers of Penzance, and in the interests of those who are unfortunately unemployed.

"In regard to section A, that is a somewhat different case. For some time past we have had correspondence and interviews with the representatives of the G.W.R. In certain conditions of weather and tides the sewerage matter breaks under the foundation of their station. There is an old sewer there which laid many long years ago in agreement with the railway company, which carried the sewage matter from the higher ground immediately outside the station, and underneath the station permanent way down to the back of the Albert. Pier. This is very objectionable and undesirable, and the relaying of this sewer may be regarded as a matter of urgency and matter of necessity; and we think the time has come when we must relay that sewer.

A sum of approximately £800 has been included in the £24,000 for dealing with this section. Mr. Latham will explain how he proposes to deal with it, and we are satisfied that if we can carry that matter through we shall be able to meet the difficulty. We don't suggest that that should be put in as one of the works which are being accelerated for the purpose of assisting the unemployment question, but did not think it was worth while having two separate enquiries, as this was really a small matter. We hope the Ministry will sanction the loan for that with as little delay as possible.

Col. Cornish concluded by thanking the inspector for putting off the enquiry from August until the present moment, and hoped it had not caused him any inconvenience, remarked that it might have been better had the enquiry been held a few days later, as He had been on holiday and had only returned the previous day, and he would have then been able to put the case better.

The Inspector said there were really three schemes, two of which the town clerk referred to, and the third dealing with the outfall sewer on the Laregan Rocks.

Dr. R. C. Lawry (Medical Officer of Health) said the public health was not affected by the sewerage, which was extremely good.

The Inspector: I should like strongly to support what Col. Cornish has said about the way the borough engineer has dealt with this extremely complex matter. The calculations and plans are extraordinarily involved, and I think great credit is due to Mr. Latham for the manner in which he has dealt with them. I came down last night and spent four hours with Mr. Latham in going through those plans and estimates, and another one and quarter hours this morning, I think I know something about them now, and at the end of five and a quarter hour I am beginning to gather some idea.

Mr. Latham (the Borough Engineer) said the real necessity for doing something for the sewerage of the town arose more particularly in 1925, through the flooding of the permanent way at the G.W.R. station. This had been aggravated modern conditions, not only the growth of houses in the district but owing to the tarring of the surface of the roads, yards, etc., which had made the surface more impervious and preventing absorption.

The Inspector remarked that there was nothing exceptional in that. These sewers had been down for 75 years. Mr. Latham proceeded to explain that originally the G.W.R. station was further to the east, and there was a road which was used to go through to the Chyandour cliffs about 100 yards east of the present station road, which did not then exist. The G.W.R. Co. made an application to the Council to construct their railway over that road, and the Corporation agreed, and the G.W.R. put their drains into the sewer. The result was that, with this and the increase in the number of houses and other things, the outfall of the sewer had proved insufficient. To overcome that matter had been a difficult and complicated problem.

"There were three or four schemes I could have adopted," said Mr. Latham, "and every one of these I have gone into in detail, but I decided in the end to adopt the scheme I have put before you. In order to do this, I have zoned the town, divided it into three areas. At the present time you have three outfalls: one at the Wherrytown rocks, one at the Battery rocks, and one at the back of the Albert pier."

Mr. Latham dealt in detail with the draining of Wherrytown, pointing out the difficulties that had to be encountered, more particularly in regard to the fact that sometimes the drain would be lower than the sea. In order to obviate that, for many years past he had established a system of back pressure valves, which had to a very great extent ameliorated the trouble there. It was difficult to see how they could overcome that trouble between tide levels and rainstorms. He had devised a plan, but it was doubtful if they could entirely overcome the trouble. To spend a large sum of money on that sewer and then find it no more effective than at present was something he did not care to take the responsibility for, and the inspector and he had both gone into the matter and had agreed that it would be better to omit that. They were of opinion that a freer outfall would an advantage. They had decided to carry on with the outfall sewer, connected with the existing 16-inch sewer in the roadway, with a new outfall sewer 15 inch in diameter right down to the rocks, and across the rocks lay an extension 80 yards in length of 22 inch cast iron pipes.

The Inspector said that in view of the medical officer's statement as to the sewage deposit on the foreshore, he agreed with Mr. Latham that the out fall should be extended 80 yards. This concluded the enquiry.