Water will be partially softened in Saffron Walden, the supplier has said.

After a row with the town council and residents, Affinity Water has committed to building a new water softening plant in Saffron Walden after its equipment deteriorated unexpectedly earlier this year.

The company previously said it did not plan to renew the equipment, and that the water supply in Saffron Walden and Ashdon would not be softened "for the foreseeable future".

But after a consultation, Affinity Water will build a new plant which should be up and running within the next 18-24 months

Kevin Barton of Affinity Water said: "We would like to say sorry for the unexpected change to the water hardness in Saffron Walden this year.

"The equipment used to partially soften the water failed unexpectedly and we have been working hard to find other solutions to put things right.

"We are committed to listening to our local communities and we realise that on this occasion, we let you down."

Saffron Walden Town Council argued that an agreement from 1964 between the then Borough Council and Lee Valley Water Company meant partial softening needed to continue.

Affinity Water has acknowledged this.

"The partial softening of water was unique to the Saffron Walden area with the additional treatment dating back to the 1960s," a spokesperson said. "How 'hard' water is is a matter of personal taste and preference.

"It is still perfectly safe to drink and use as normal."

Hard water is high in calcium and magnesium content.

University of Sheffield and King's College London researchers found a link between hard water and eczema development in 2017.

Residents raised concerns around having to replace kettles, dishwashers and boilers at environmental and economic cost as a result of mineral deposits and limescale.

Saffron Walden's Mayor, Councillor Richard Porch, welcomed the move to resume water softening.

"I think it's fantastic," he said. "I am pleased the the water board is taking the approach they are."

Affinity Water will also make a donation to St Clare's Hospice, a charity chosen by consultation respondents, by way of apology to customers.