TEST Valley residents are angry at a recent 'bonkers' bill for sewerage charges.

More than 300 ex-council houses in villages across the Test Valley are connected to plants operated by Aster housing association. 

In August, Aster issued its latest bill to cover 'budget deficits', to be paid in addition to the increasing monthly charge. 

Some residents have refused to pay, with one saying it may force her to move. 

Elizabeth Grimes, 65, of Cowleas Cottages in Awbridge, currently pays £46 per month and received a bill for £2,363 on August 29.

Hampshire Chronicle: Elizabeth Grimes

READ MORE: Lockerley man landed with bill for upgrade to Aster sewerage works

Mrs Grimes, who has lived at her property for 27 years, said: “This has caused a lot of unnecessary anxiety. I never thought the bill would be as big as this. The monthly charges have fluctuated over the years from £14 to £80.

“Even though Aster said the charge can be paid monthly, I won't be able to pay it. It's a real worry, one I don't need. I can't see how they can do this. I'm on a small pension, I so may need to sell the property, which I really don't want to do.”

John Heaton, of Verlynch Cottages in Longstock, saw his monthly charge increase by almost £100 in one year. It went up from £37 in March 2022 to £133 per month in April. The 67-year-old has also received a budget deficit bill for £688.

Hampshire Chronicle: John Heaton

Mr Heaton said: “It's bonkers, especially with the cost of everything rising. It's our highest bill, even more than our utilities. I'm retired, living on a fixed pension. The costs make it very difficult. I'm definitely staying, I'm refusing to pay them.”

SEE ALSO: Aster to review sewerage charges for Test Valley residents

Brent Buchanan, of Glebe Meadow in East Dean, has lived at his property for three years, but has also seen a huge increase.

Hampshire Chronicle: Brent Buchanan

The 32-year-old design engineer first paid £32 per month and is currently paying £138. His latest budget deficit bill was £1,900.

Mr Buchanan said: “It's much more than our electricity cost. The worst thing is knowing how much less it was when we first moved in. It has had a huge impact, we have had to cut-back a lot to be able to afford everything. We are refusing to pay the additional charge. We are also saving for a wedding, so it's becoming increasingly difficult.”

Cllr Nick Adams-King, who represents Romsey Rural on Hampshire County Council, said: “Residents are justifiably furious about the latest charges from Aster. In many cases they exceed all their other utility costs combined. I had been told by Aster that they would not charge residents for the costs associated with the sewerage treatment plants not working properly. Clearly they have not kept to that promise. I have therefore examined the charges for each site and identified the additional costs which, if Aster stick to their agreement, should not be charged. In most cases these are £10,000’s and in some constitute most of the bill.

Hampshire Chronicle: Cllr Nick Adams-King

“Aster have known that there are problems with these plants for over eight years. They are pressing unfair and exorbitant charges on residents who in many cases are already struggling. These are not wealthy homeowners, rather young families struggling to afford their first home, single parents and retired people reliant on the state pension. I will not give up seeking redress for my constituents affected by this. It is unfair and unjust, Aster must take responsibility for their failure to proactively manage these sewerage treatment plants.”

An Aster spokesman said: “We’re in regular contact with affected homeowners and so we understand their concerns about costs associated with works to the sewerage plants.

“The costs customers pay for sewerage are variable and so are subject to change if we have to spend more than we estimate for the year. Some fees have increased due to work being undertaken to upgrade and repair plants in the area.

“To support customers with their end of year bills, we are capping these costs to limit the amount they have to pay. Anything over this amount is being subsidised by Aster.

“We’re also encouraging any customers that are concerned or worried about repayments to contact us and talk through the options available to them.”