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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006, 15:15 GMT 16:15 UK
Duke in threat to village water
the letter
The estate say it will work with local councils to help keep taps running
Some 130 homes in a village could be left without water after an aristocrat vowed to cut off their supply.

The Duke of Somerset has told the 300 residents of Witham Friary, near Frome, that he is "regrettably terminating" the private supply from his estate.

Villagers pay 200 a year for water from a spring on the duke's estate.

But falling water levels, increasing demands and a creaking infrastructure have prompted letters of notice to be sent to the villagers' homes.

An estate spokeswoman said the duke was away and unavailable for comment.

A hosepipe ban has been in place for the past 18 months and homeowners have been asked not to flush toilets too frequently.

We raise money for wells to be sunk in Africa, but no-one seems prepared to provide us with a basic essential of life
Jo Rose,
local resident

The duke is said to have taken the decision to cut off the water after an application for a 90,000 grant to update the ageing system was turned down by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Village taps could run dry as early as 25 June, when the three-month termination notice kicks in.

Local resident Jo Rose said: "We raise money for Africa for wells to be sunk, but no-one seems prepared to provide us with a basic essential of life.

"It really does scare me to think we might not have any water."

Water main

Deborah Liggatt, a clerk on the parish council, said: "The duke is willing to hand over the water supply to another responsible body and at the moment we're negotiating with him and Mendip District Council to try and find a solution."

The parties are due to meet and discuss the issue in two weeks' time.

Witham Friary is several miles from the nearest water main and it is thought that connecting the village to the system would cost about 1m.

A Bristol Water spokesman said: "If they want to connect to our network the nearest main is about 5km away and we are talking of a lot of money to do that.

"On top of that before we adopted the pipes in the village we'd have to make sure they met modern standards."

The Duke of Somerset, who owns two 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.


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