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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 June 2006, 07:12 GMT 08:12 UK
Villagers face 12,000 water bill
the letter
The estate says it will work with local councils to help keep taps running
Residents of a Somerset village whose water is being cut off by a local aristocrat are facing a 12,000 bill to connect their homes to the mains.

Villagers in Witham Friary, near Frome, pay 200 a year for water from a spring on the Duke of Somerset's estate.

But falling water levels and an antiquated infrastructure prompted the duke to decide to cut the supply.

The cheapest solution is to link to Bristol Water's nearest reservoir at a cost of 12,000 per house.

Grant refused

But a village meeting on Tuesday night heard farms in the area could face a bill of up to three times that amount.

Witham Friary's 300 residents were sent letters of notice of the plan to terminate their water after the duke's application for a 90,000 grant to update pipes was turned down by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Taps in the village's 130 homes could run dry as early as 25 June, but the estate and the local parish council are said to be working together to ensure a smooth transition.

The Duke of Somerset, who owns estates in Devon and Wiltshire, came under fire from his local vicar two years ago when he increased the rent on the village hall in Berry Pomeroy in Devon from 5p a year to 250.

Duke in threat to village water
30 May 06 |  Wiltshire

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