FAQs: Free Upgrade Scheme

No, this is not a scam! While a free septic tank upgrade worth tens of thousands of pounds sounds too good to be true, it is not.  Our scheme is fully accredited by Local Councils and Natural England.  

Don’t be fooled by other provider’s marketing.  WCI was the first to introduce septic tank upgrades as phosphate mitigation in the UK and we are the only scheme which allows for free septic tank upgrades without you being dependent on other people’s planning applications.  We believe in No Nonsense Nutrient Neutrality and our comprehensive FAQs below explain all the details fully.

Eligibility FAQs

Where can septic tanks be upgraded?

Upgrades are currently only possible in areas of Somerset affected by ‘Nutrient Neutrality’ restrictions. Unfortunately, these areas do not specifically match postcodes so the easiest way for us to determine whether your property lies in a suitable location is for us to check using our mapping system. Please register your interest and we’ll check for you.

I share my septic tank with a neighbour. Can we upgrade?

Yes, we can upgrade shared systems.  Both you and your neighbour will need to enter into shared legal agreements.  Please talk to your neighbours and ensure they also want to upgrade before contacting us as we cannot negotiate with your neighbour on your behalf.

I share my septic tank with a neighbour but want to have my own system. Can you do this under the free upgrade scheme?

Yes, we can provide a free sewage treatment plant and separate you from your neighbours under the scheme.  However, this implies a new discharge either to ground or to a stream which must be technically feasible.  And we cannot separate your property from neighbours if it would ‘cut them off’ from the existing system.  Please register your interest and we will consider the options when we survey your property.

My septic tank is not on my land. Can we upgrade?

Yes, we can still upgrade your septic tank if it lies on third party land but the new sewage treatment plant will need to be located on your land.  The new sewage treatment plant can still discharge into soakaways or streams that are not on your land.

My septic tank is currently discharging to a stream or ditch. Can we upgrade?

Yes, we can upgrade septic tanks which are currently illegal.  However, we cannot claim the same level of benefit from these upgrades and you may not be eligible for a cash incentive.

Your marketing refers to a cash incentive. How much will I get?

Unlike other schemes that provide a fixed cash incentive as a ‘contribution towards landscaping’, our scheme commits first to providing a complete upgrade with the highest quality of reinstatement.  Our upgrades include all electrical work, professional commissioning by British Water-accredited engineers, Building Control and reinstatement of works.  When we survey your property, our engineers will assess the complexity of the upgrade and we use this to define the cash incentive that we will offer you.

Legal FAQs

Is your scheme accredited?

WCI is the first in the UK to have a septic tank upgrade scheme accredited by Somerset County Council which allows us to upgrade septic tanks without you needing to enter agreements with developers.  This now means that WCI is able to progress septic tank upgrades without you having any dependency on developers and their planning applications.

We are still working with other Councils to gain the same level of efficiency.  However, all other Council’s accept our septic tank upgrades although these must be presented as part of a developer’s planning application.  This means that we can upgrade septic tanks anywhere in the country (where nutrient neutrality restrictions apply) but it might just take a bit longer to process.

What legal obligations will I have?

For you to qualify for a free upgrade, you must enter into a ‘Planning Agreement’ with the Council.  The agreement is called a ‘Unilateral Undertaking’.  You will be agreeing to:

  • The installation of the new sewage treatment plant and the decommissioning of the old system
  • Appointing a competent service provider for the maintenance of the new sewage treatment plant for the life of the system. We will do this free of charge for the first five years following installation.
  • Having the discharge from the sewage treatment plant monitored each year to ensure that it is performing the required level. We will do this free of charge for the first five years following installation.
  • Only ever replacing the new sewage treatment plant with a system which delivers an equivalent level of treatment quality.
  • Allowing the Council rights of access (on 21 days’ notice) to your property to check that the sewage treatment plant is working.
  • And not to sell the land where the sewage treatment plant lies independently of the property.

What is the Monitoring Fee in the S106 agreement?

Under the terms of your S106 agreement with Somerset Council, you are obliged to pay an administration fee of £300 only if your sewage treatment plant fails to perform adequately over two consecutive years.  The monitoring fee is not an annual payment and is only payable if you have to inform the Council of a failure.

Can I sell my property if I have had a free septic tank upgrade?

Yes, you can sell your property. The Council will register your agreement to the conditions listed above as a legal charge on the property and the obligations will be passed to any new owner of the property.  In many ways, this may aid the sale of the property as you will be able to demonstrate that your foul drainage system is completely compliant.

My property is mortgaged. Can I still qualify for a free upgrade?

Yes, properties that are mortgaged still quality.  However, you will be responsible for gaining your mortgage company’s consent to the Council taking a charge on the property.

Will I own the new sewage treatment plant?

Yes, we are supplying and installing the new sewage treatment plant free of charge but it will be yours on completion of the works.

Will the new system meet General Binding Rules?

Your new sewage treatment plant will form part of a compliant foul drainage system.  In most cases, this will mean that the system complies with the Environment Agency’s ‘General Binding Rules’.  However, in some circumstances, the discharge may need to be covered by Environmental Permit and we will tell you if this is the case.

Is the installation covered by Building Control?

Yes, your installation will be covered by Building Control and we will provide you with a comprehensive ‘Completion Pack’ which includes a Building Completion Certificate, an Electrical Completion Certificate, the manufacturer’s operations manual, a service plan and even a photographic record of the works.

You surveyed my property and my sewage treatment system is non-compliant. Will I be reported if I don’t upgrade my system?

In line with our company privacy policy, we hold all personal data securely and will not pass details of your property or its sewage treatment plant onto any third party.  If you decide not to proceed with an upgrade of your sewage treatment plant with WCI, or indeed, if your property is not eligible for a free upgrade as part of this scheme, rest assured that your details will not be shared with anyone outside of WCI.

What does 'Best Endeavours' in the Planning Agreement actually mean?

Your obligation under the Planning Agreement is to ensure ongoing operation and performance of your new PTP and the Council’s Planning Agreement requires you to apply ‘Best Endeavours’ to resolve failures.  This means that if there is a component failure it will be both reasonable and best to replace those components.  If it is associated with complete failure of the tank structure, it is both reasonable and best to repair the tank if possible and replace it if not.  Fortunately, the tank comes with a 15 year manufacturer’s warranty and a 3 year manufacturer’s warranty on components so with WCI’s expert servicing ensuring ongoing operation and performance is easy.

Technical FAQs

My septic tank drains to a drainage field/ soakaway which doesn't work. Will you replace the soakaway at the same time as the septic tank?

Our scheme is funded on the basis of upgrade of septic tanks.  We can replace failed soakaways at the same time but you will not be eligible for a cash incentive and we may ask for a contribution to the replacement cost of the soakaway.  Replacement of soakaways is dependent on the completion of ‘percolation tests’ which we can help you complete.

My roof water drains to my septic tank. What now?

No sewage treatment system will handle rainwater as well as sewage.  Your rainwater must be separated from the foul drains for the system to be compliant.  Our scheme does not cover this work but we are able to complete the work at the same time as the septic tank upgrade. We will prepare comprehensive quotations for this work when we survey your property.

How long will the free septic tank upgrade take?

Most upgrades will take 3-5 days depending the particulars of your property.  Works can take longer if access is tricky, your garden is landscaped, we need to resurface driveways, and so on. 

Do I have to move out of the house while you upgrade my septic tank?

No.  There will naturally be some disruption – such as restricted use of your garden or needing to find alternative places to park your car – while the upgrade is completed but in almost every case, you will continue to have the use of your foul drains throughout the works. 

Your offer includes five years of free servicing. What happens after the five years?

You are obliged to maintain your sewage treatment plant throughout its life.  However, you are not tied to WCI and can appoint any service provider both during the first five years and afterwards.  Of course, we hope that you will continue to appoint WCI once you see how good a job we do.

My house is off-grid. Does the sewage treatment plant need electricity?

Yes, the sewage treatment plant requires a standard 230 V electrical supply.  The electrical consumption is very low (less than a 60 watt lightbulb for a single house) so even the most ‘off-grid’ housing can generally be accommodated.

Will my garden be dug up?

The installation of a new sewage treatment plant requires the use of excavators and dumpers.  This can be quite dramatic if you’re not used to groundworks.  However, we have 40 years of experience of installations in domestic properties and we pride ourselves in our quality of reinstatement.

What sewage treatment plant will you install?

We will install a high quality package sewage treatment plant certified under BS EN12566-3.  In most instances, this will be a GRAF one2clean although we will only install systems that are suitable for you and your property and this sometimes means an alternative system is more suitable.

A Scheme You Can Trust

WCI is uniquely placed to deliver on our promise of no nonsense nutrient neutrality.

  • Our consultant engineers have been designing foul drainage solutions for planning approval for years. We understand development, planning and the regulatory environment. That includes preparing over 50 NNAMS in the last year or so.
  • Our Construction division has been installing treatment plants for 40 years.
  • Our British Water-Accredited Service Engineers are trained and qualified in the commissioning and maintenance of treatment plants.
  • We have the resources and balance sheet to deliver on our promises.

No Nonsense
Nutrient Neutrality